Wildly Underrated: Pandorum

It occurs to me that my taste in films is often wildly divergent from the consensus to be found on MetaCritic. This column aims to showcase various films and games that you might have given a pass due to poor reviews or marketing. Starting us off: Pandorum. MetaCritic score: 28.

I gave Pandorum a pass when it first came out in 2009. The marketing made it look like a sort of crappy Event Horizon or Alien knockoff that would be all jump-scare and no substance. A couple of years later I finally gave it a whirl and I'm so glad that I did, because Pandorum stands up very well on its own as a solid science fiction flick.

In this movie, the year is 2174. The Earth has suffered from some calamity that has required colony ships like our own to be dispatched to the far flung reaches of the galaxy in search of a new home. Colonists and Crew have been placed into a deep cryosleep while the ship makes its long journey. But of course, something has gone wrong.

We meet our protagonist as he is awoken from his slumber. The rest of the crew is missing and the ship seems to be in a heavy state of disrepair. Something bad has happened, and there are strange sounds coming from below decks. Our hero wants to figure out what has happened and to ensure humanity's survival by getting the ship back underway.

To my tastes, this is an awesome premise. The stakes are high but the concept is simple, and as we dig into the mysteries of this ship and the fate of its crew, I found that the plot seemed both realistic and well-imagined. This is a movie with a clear mystery and a satisfying resolution to that mystery.  

Something I look for in high-quality science fiction is the sense that a work takes itself seriously - that it totally devotes itself to realistic cause and effect in the world that it has built. An example of bad science fiction (but still a good movie): the Avengers. Let me tell you who would fucking die in two seconds in that movie: everyone not named Thor or Hulk. Tony Stark would be liquified inside his Iron Man suit the first time he smashes into an obstacle at Mach 2. Hawkeye and Scarlett Johannsen would just get shot and die. Captain America would get shot like 30 times and then die. Only Thor, who is literally a God, and the Hulk, who is basically invincible in the lore, would be able to survive even a single fight. The Avengers does not apply a formula involving realistic cause and effect in its science fiction elements. Pandorum, however, does. And I respect that.

So without any spoilers on offer, I suggest that you put this one on your Watchlist and give a whirl the next time you've got 108 minutes to kill.

You can rent Pandorum on Amazon instant video for $3.99