26
Feb 10

I Barely Knew ‘im!

Do You See + FT3 comments • 509 views

Pandorum posterCam Gigandet (did I stutter?) started out as a young hunk on the Young and the Restless, moved on to playing a young hunk on the OC, kicked off his movie career as young hunk James in Twilight, and now turns up as a young hunk with blindingly white teeth in Pandorum, a pleasingly second-rate sci fi action horror flick set far in the future when Earth has finally groaned and broken under the weight of all its pesky human inhabitants and one last, colossal spaceship has taken off with the last of the human race.

Yes this is also how Wall-E starts. But where Wall-E gave us a good 30 dialogue-free minutes on the desolation of a post-human Earth, this movie starts deep in the bowels of the de rigeur giant spaceship where everyone except rotating teams of flight crew are deep in “hypersleep”, waiting to touch down on a pre-identified Earth-like planet that lies several thousand light years away.

A member of the flight crew awakens fitfully, his memory a fog. He peers around. No lights. He snaps a glow-stick. A thick layer of dust covers the room. Suffice to say, he doesn’t yet know about the evil alien clowns aboard who can run like greased lightning and who like nothing better than snacking on fresh human.

And here Pandorum does a big belly-flop. These evil clowns are RUBBISH! Don’t bother sneaking up on anyone, fellas, we can tell you’re there by the slow-moving blue glow around the corner and the reverbed whooshes you make as you breathe. Don’t bother using your supposedly superhuman speed, our heroes will always outrun you. And hey, you – old survivor. The guy who slathers himself in engine oil to mask his smell? Yeah, you. Don’t bother. These aliens prove repeatedly incapable of sensing fresh, exposed man-skin just inches from their gaping noseholes.

I know, I know, who cares. But the whole fun of alien monsters is the steady sussing out of their strengths and weaknesses. If they can run 100 miles an hour, then running away from them should not be a good strategy.

But there’s a more fundamental problem with humans vs super-evolved enemies, a problem that better movies like Predator and Alien succeed at distracting us from. Basically, we should never win. We should just die. Because we are worse than they are at most of the things necessary to win in a fight. So for the sake of a happy ending we make our enemies super-evolved physically, but mentally sub-normal. (This goes back to the Jack Tales at least, the most famous of which is Jack and the Beanstalk. No physical match for the giants he meets, Jack always figures out some clever trick to either kill them or get away, or both.)

But this movie insists on humans beating aliums on their own terms – outfighting rather than out-thinking them – so we are treated to some very unconvincing victories. Which is why Pandorum missed its real calling: it should have been a video game. Video games don’t want – or even allow – you to think outside the game’s own rules in order to win – you just have to keep bashing away at a certain section until you finally do it well enough to pass. You die again and again, because you suck. And because you are not allowed to act in ways the game hasn’t anticipated.

There’s a ton of set pieces in Pandorum that would be terrific in a video game: the shonky bridge over a squirming moat of aliens; the escape from the locked room; three-way martial arts battles; cut-scene reminisces about life before the ship..

Anyway, eventually we find out that the evil clowns were once normal human passengers (aha!) who were woken from sleep early by a power-mad ship’s officer; the enzyme that has been added to their bodies to accelerate adaptation to the new planet they are to populate has instead started super-adapting to the ship itself. And perhaps the ship’s DVD collection.

The power-mad officer is played by the aforementioned Mr Gigandet (very nice with cassis I’m told) and he is utterly convincing as a whiny, narcissistic, smug little brat who I want to brain with a giant wrench.

It all gets very messy by the end of course but it always helps when your protagonist knows how to start the ship’s reactor in barely less time than is showing on the “everything explodes when this reaches 0:00” timer. He gets it right the first time – whew!

Comments

  1. 1
    Tracer Hand on 26 Feb 2010 #

    Previous review here –

    http://freakytrigger.co.uk/ft/2009/10/panda-decorum/

    We even used the same poster!

  2. 2
    swanstep on 26 Feb 2010 #

    Bad sign about this film: its, surely deliberately, very misleading poster. I assumed that the gal whose face is biggest and center – in star position – was Milla Jovovich. It looks like her, the poster primes us for that identification by saying the film’s from the creators of Resident Evil, and who else could earn star position? And, beyond that, this is exactly the sort of ropey semi-sci fi, video-game B-movie that Milla J. has slummed in for the last decade (after starting out rather brilliantly in things like The Claim). The upshot: it *has* to be her.

    But alarm bells start to ring: her name’s nowhere on the poster. And, looking closer, maybe that isn’t her after all? It couldn’t/shouldn’t be, since quaid and foster alone get any sort of billing.

    Looking at the film’s wiki page, I gather that the second thought is correct, moreover it’s clear from the plot summary there the only possible ‘dishy gal’ character is very minor (evidently playing a significant role only at the very end of the film). It turns out then, that *not only* is this movie Milla-free, it doesn’t even fulfill the poster’s (arguable) secondary promise, of (at least in part) having an implausibly gorgeous, Milla-wannabe kicking level after level of video-game-baddie butt.

    Of course, I’m pretty sure that the film has many much more serious problems than just just its intentionally, and I believe multiply misleading advertizing (its plot sounds like it combines several ludicrous and unsatisfying twists – e.g., surprise! we’re actually underwater!). Still, that a reasonably big-budget film felt free to use the deceptive marketing practices of a sideshow barker is remarkable.

  3. 3
    Tracer Hand on 27 Feb 2010 #

    She actually does kick some ass, though never as much as you’d like her to. She deserved more. A set-piece duel, perhaps (or some clever trick to wipe out a bunch of clowns at once – though as per above, this movie doesn’t do clever). The movie sets her up as a deep character (a loner who trusts no one; tending to the ship’s biology lab; being a complete ass-kicker; etc) but she ends up just kind of running around with Ben Foster and looking hot.

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