Dennis Quaid, Ben Foster

  3 out of 5 stars
  Reviewed for Coffeerooms by Mike Jefferson

"Pandorum" is rapidly rolling, dark-toned, often scary sci-fi with a crazy crew, hungry humanoids and nuclear nastiness. It's survival of the fittest - or the fastest.

Astronaut Bower (boring Ben Foster) wakes up from hyper-sleep to find himself alone in deep space with no memory of who he is. As Bower's memory returns, he's joined by a second thawed out astronaut, Payton (Dennis Quaid, playing the film's only multi-dimensional character). The two men try to figure out what happened to the ship's crew and the 60,000 refugees escaping from Earth who were headed to a new home world.

Bower explores the ship as Payton tries to establish contact with the crew from the bridge. Bower encounters a crazed crew member being pursued by flesh-eating homicidal humanoids that move about unopposed at blinding speed. The racing roughnecks track down and tear apart their terrified quarry with merciless glee as Bowers cowers, unable to help.

Bower leads a group of mismatched survivors (is there any other kind?) that battle their ravenous foes while making the perilous journey to the ship's reactor in the hope of resetting it before it explodes.

Dennis Quaid is still one of the best Doc Holiday's to ever hit the screen. (Too bad his performance was swallowed up by the bloated weight of Kevin Costner's three hour homage to Wyatt Earp.) Quaid is one of the movie's main attractions until he slips into a case of pandorum that plays out worse than any rambling speech George Bush Jr. or Sr. ever gave. Payton's fate is a too neat and a bit of a cheat.

Bower is meant to be a captivating, charismatic hero. After all, he goes by one name, like Sade or Madonna. He's highly heroic, going hand-to-hand with the spike-wielding mutants, and in a scene that will test your "yuk" reflex, he's beyond brave when he tip-toes through the mutants' crowded, slimy slumber chamber in order to get to the reactor. But Foster is bland - an expressionless vessel whose better delivering punches rather than punch lines - Christopher Lambert (or lame-bert) comes to mind. Foster left a much more intense and diverse impression as Russell Crowe's second in command in the 2007 remake of "3:10 to Yuma."

Bower's love interest, German actress Antje Traue, is a hyperkinetic hottie, but you'll need a U.N. translator in order to wade through her heavily-accented, unintelligible utterances. Her character, Nadia, is a matter of convenience. As the "scientist" of the group, she provides the audience with the background info we crave... Why the passengers were forced to abandon earth, how the humans of board became entrees, and the origin of the augmented aliens. She's also the necessary love interest (albeit a greasy and violent one) - Bower's battlin' Eve to his intergalactic Adam.

The bad-ass blue bad guys who zip hungrily throughout the ship are plenty rabid and rapid - perfect sci-fi boogeymen whose sole reason for being is to devour their human enemies. But there might be a copyright infringement going on here - the creatures are near carbon copies of the subterranean slugs that made 2005's "The Decent" a claustrophobic classic. The recycled blue-colored brethren in "Pandorum" may be retreads, but they're just as just as scary the second time around.

The dark, dispassionate hallways and crumbling computers within the ship provide the goosepimply feeling of terror at every turn.  The early scenes in which Bower begins his deadly game of hide seek with the blue-colored cannibals will make your nerve endings crackle. Once Bower joins forces with German karate chopping coquette Nadia, a Vietnamese Ninja and the ship's crazy cook, and Payton starts acting like he needs liberal doses of lithium, "Pandorum" spins toward a conventional conclusion.

An Extra Dose of Pandorum

One of the burning questions in the early part of the film is "Where's crewman Cooper?" In the short film "What Happened to Nadia's Dream?" a prequel to "Pandorum," we find out what happened to Cooper and the group of survivors he cast his lot with. It's an entertaining vignette that adds to the film's inventive back story.

Dennis Quaid's presence helps, but "Pandorum" is all about action rather than acting. Watching the unbowed band of space travelers battle the ship's shrieking savages is worth opening Pandorum's box.

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