Throw out the presence of Dennis Quaid, and the new science-fiction/horror snoozer Pandorum could easily pass for a Roger Corman cheapie. In the Corman spirit, the film saves money on lighting and casting by devoting half its run time to having Ben Foster wander around a dimly lit, grubby, seemingly empty spaceship in a dystopian future, as if starring in a homemade, creature-free Alien. Then the space beasties arrive, looking like bootleg orcs from Lord Of The Rings, and the film morphs from a tedious thriller in which nothing much happens to a tedious thriller/would-be mind-blower in which far too much happens.
A slumming Quaid and Foster play spaceship crew members who wake up from a years-long hyper-sleep with only the fuzziest notion of who they are and what they’re supposed to do. Foster eventually encounters a few other survivors, including sexy warrior Antje Traue, as well as a plague of mutated humans who have devolved into grotesque monsters. Foster is convinced he can save the ship, but will he be able to do so before the debilitating psychological condition known to Ren and Stimpy fans as “space madness” takes over and dooms the ship and its skeleton crew alike?
Director Christian Alvart and screenwriter Travis Milloy attempt to cultivate a mood of slow-building terror in Pandorum’s action-and-spectacle-light first half. But they just end up padding out a film that, at 108 poky minutes, is already unconscionably long to begin with. Quaid and Foster spend far too much time trying to figure out what’s going on, but audiences are liable to respond only with a dispirited “Who cares?” Alvart doles out the script’s handful of ideas stingily, which would be problematic even if they weren’t all hopelessly shopworn. In space, apparently, no one can hear you steal.