Written by Old Bluffer 12th Oct 2009
[This film is worth watching, and the following review will spoil the plot]
The Elysium is a colony ship, launched by a desperate Earth towards Tanis, a planet they hope can support the hundreds of thousands of life-forms required for habitation.
The eventual population cannot of course survive the voyage, which will take generations, so they have been frozen in "hypersleep".
The danger here is relying on frail humans to oversee such a long project, especially when they are prone to a Deep Space phenomenon known as "Pandorum". This condition manifests as extreme paranoia and, ultimately, psychopathic madness.
Pandorum is exacerbated by extreme stress, so when the skeleton crew receive a message telling them that Earth has been destroyed, and that they are therefore humanity's last hope, one of their number, Gallo, snaps and kills his colleagues.
In sole control of the ship, Gallo develops a God Complex, and starts to randomly thaw people out to play sadistic games with them. As part of his insanity he somehow manages to infect them with chemicals designed to help humans adapt on Tanis. The drugs mutate the hapless humans to adapt on the ship instead, and while Gallo hypersleeps for centuries, they evolve into their own species, that can only survive by eating the humans as they awake from hypersleep.
[it is unclear why the humans conveniently thaw out at intervals sufficient to keep the mutant population fed, but perhaps Gallo programmed this behaviour before freezing himself]
Some humans - the toughest or the most ruthless - survive the mutant hunters long enough to find their own niche in the savage ship-wide eco-system, and it is these characters that the movie focuses on.
Bower is the first character we see, newly thawed out and closely followed by Payton. Bower ventures out into the ship, connected to Payton via a radio link, and their remote comms forms a lot of the film's early dialogue.
There is always something a bit suspicious about Payton though, and alarm bells really start ringing when, alone in a secure area, he somehow happens across another survivor. The survivor is obviously suffering from Pandorum, but honestly, it's no surprise that he is eventually revealed to be a figment of Payton's imagination.
Payton you see, is actually Gallo, and responsible for all the terror and carnage that has infected the ship.
This sets the scene for Bower and Nadia (the film's token woman) to confront him in the final denouement. As
morlocks hunters batter at the doors to the bridge, Payton opens the viewports to reveal that there are no stars to be seen - the ship is actually under the ocean on the planet Tanis.
The two heroes should be able to overpower Payton, but Bower is starting to suffer from Pandorum himself, and it looks as though Nadia is about to get killed. At the last possible moment though Bower blasts the viewport with the security stun device that he's been carrying all film, despite it not being much good against the hunters [it's not entirely clear if he did this for any rational reason, hence the Accidental category for this death - OB]
The screen starts to crack in a Deep Blue Sea moment, which snaps Bower back into sanity. He grabs Nadia and pulls her into a hypersleep pod as the ship silently warns of a Hull Breach. Water starts to pour in, drowning Payton and the hunters, but either Bower or the ship's failsafes have started the sequence to eject all the sleep pods on the ship. This leads to the predictable but still somewhat satisfying happy ending where just over a thousand surviving humans emerge confused but alive off the coast of a New Eden.
Old Bluffer's Thoughts
Pandorum is a healthy if unoriginal mish mash of fairly standard sci-fi tropes, and invites comparisons with Solaris, Alien, The Time Machine and countless episodes of Red Dwarf.
This is not necessarily a bad thing of course, and if you're in the mood for a gritty space survival horror then there are definitely worse ways of spending a couple of hours.
Where the movie falls some way short of greatness is in the crudity of its plot exposition. I've mentioned video games a fair bit, but the script really does rely on too many devices that are a staple in games. Characters that pop up to deliver a bit of dialogue (that you can't skip no matter how many buttons you mash) and then conveniently die once their purpose is fulfilled, end of level "safe points", and even a climactic "stealth" section all detract from the cinema experience and evoke thoughts of saving your progress and continuing another day.
Despite this, the movie occasionally elevates itself to some reasonably nice sequences. For the end "twist" where the ship is revealed to already be on the destination planet, I expected to be shown verdant forests and lush beaches. The actual underwater shot with alien jellyfish and other life forms was a lot more cinematic than I expected, as was the wideangle view of the broken, half submerged Elysium and Tanis' coastline.
So, all in all, not nearly as bad as sites such as Rotten Tomatoes would suggest, and I wouldn't even be averse to a sequel (there's no way all those mutants drowned after all!).
Having said all that, given the choice, I'd still rather watch Rimmerworld :-).