Why the Movie Pandorum Warrants Explanation and Walkthrough

Let’s be really really honest here guys, hardcore sci-fi and horror movies really aren’t my thing. Characters with the names of Xyzilligea and planets with local inhabitants with four heads? No, no thanks. And horror movies with enough fake blood per scene to fill a bathtub? Blech. So why don’t we discuss why the movie Pandorum warrants explanation and walkthrough shall we?

And seeing as though Pandorum is really both a hardcore and a horror film, I really had to grapple with whether I wanted to watch this movie or not. But, I have to say that some of the movies that are the most exciting from a thinking man’s cinema lover viewpoint are in this space solely because they are doing things differently. They are turning the genre upside down because they have to get new viewers. Hollywood on the other hand? Are refrying those same dang beans over and over and over again, and telling you that they are a new lovely foie gras that you are going to want to sunk your teeth into. Right?

So, while some of these movies won’t win awards for set production, or sound design, cinematography, editing, directing, acting, special effects… really any of it, they will win your hearts over from an idea standpoint. And that’s what I have for you today. Pandorum. A movie that definitely won’t win at the Oscars this year, not nominations, heck, even invites… it won’t even win an invite! hahah. But, what it will do is surprise you. It’ll play with your expectations of the genre, and it will make you say at the end of the movie – ok, that was clever.

And since one of the greatest things about Pandorum is its ideas, you’d do well to stop… reconsider your life choices… go and find the movie out on Netflix here, or Amazon, or Google, or wherever, and watch it. THEN! come back and read, discuss, debate what you think happened throughout the movie. How it happened. Why it happened. Etc, etc. Alright? Deal? Great.

Deep Dive Pandorum Walkthrough

Earth is failing. The world is ending. And so, in a desperate attempt to save humanity, the people of Earth send a ship with thousands of people on it, hundreds of light years into space in order to find a new habitable planet. (An idea as old as science fiction itself.) Only this time? Something goes horribly wrong and after some unknowable duration, crew members begin waking up. They awaken with no clue of who they are, where they are, and what is going on. These are the symptoms of long duration hibernation, apparently.

Bower (played by Ben Foster, of Hell or High Water fame) is the first crew member to wake, and he is completely confused. He eventually figures out that he is in fact a crew member of the fifth team. The crew apparently, works in 2 year shifts. And each team is supposed to bring up the next team when their shift is ending, in order to debrief and hand off responsibilities. Only problem? Team four didn’t do that, they are alone, and the power seems to be all kinds of screwed up. So what is going on? Well, soon, a commanding officer named Payton (played by Dennis Quaid), wakes from his hibernation sleep as well, just as out of it and confused as Bower.

But between the two of them, they realize that the glitching power issue is caused by the nuclear reactors jargon jargon re-coupling jargon or they will explode due to a jargony jargon reinitializing the jargon jargon, in the flux capacitors, jargon jargon. Ok? Thankfully, Bower is a jargon expert. And phew, super thankful that he will definitely be able to re-stabilize the jargons once he actually figures out how to arrive at said jargons. Only glitch? Most of the power is down, and it’s going to be difficult navigating Bower over there in time to do the jargony work he needs to do. Right? But Payton will help to get him there from his temporary command post. Got it? Great.

Let’s fast forward through the first half of the movie. We meet horrible space aliens of some kind, that tend to hunt the hibernation sleep pods and eat the colonists as they can. We also meet two other members of the crew, a Vietnamese guy named Manh (played by Cung Le) and a Nadia (played by Antje Traue). Both, at first, seem to be hostile to Bower’s chances, but turn out to be important to his attempted success. PHEW! And after our 72nd run in with the aliens, Bower realizes that the flux capacitor jargony things are near critical. And, with a guess from his hip, he anticipates they all have less than an hour to fix the power problem or they are toast.

Payton’s Pandorum Struggles

As I was watching this film, I was kind of confused as to why the screenplay and the director cast Quaid in a role where he was almost entirely by himself. What were they thinking? Why did they have him playing in a role that was so solitary? And even when eventually they gave birth through the wiring and the ship oil to another character Gallo (played by Cam Gigandet), I instantly suspected something else was up. Think about it. Payton is there, and squeezing out of the wires and cables, naked, and covered in fluid of some sort. It’s the picture of birth. Literally. But a birth of what?

Well, one of the key elements of the movie Pandorum is the space travel illness that bears the name – Pandorum. This is an illness that comes from extensive hibernation, and starts with jitters, and ends with a split with reality… and usually with the death of other crew members. Right? And we are starting to get hints that Payton is showing signs of having Pandorum. The twitching, the jumps of reality. Something else is going on here. BUT WHATT!?!? Well, come to find out, Gallo? He is a younger version of Payton. Payton is Gallo, Gallo is Payton. And the sparring and fighting between the two? That’s just Payton going mad, and fighting to maintain control of his psyche.

Pandorum Revelations and Timeline

Now, the key assumption has been the passengers and the crew are on a hundred light year trip in order to arrive at a hospitable planet. But something feels really off about all of that. The ship is in tatters beyond what it should be. The power-jargon coupler jargons are wearing down beyond what they should be.  The ship is covered in strange aliens like its been turned into a wild wild west of space. And the aliens are a breeding ground of chaos and madness, right? Something is really off here. Like off by 180 degrees kind of off, right?

Well, at the end, as Bower is arguing with Gallo, and Gallo is making his grandiose plans to inseminate the universe with contents of the ship… or something… the windows of the bridge begin opening. And Nadia gets the attention of Gallo and Bower to see. And at first it appears as if all the stars were gone. But then it becomes obvious that the ship is underwater. That actually? The ship landed on the new planet over 800 years ago. That the ship had actually arrived at its destination, and had self landed, which happened to be at the bottom of the sea.

And when the fighting between Gallo and Bower cracks the bridge’s windows, Bower and Nadia run to the nearest escape pod, and escape to the surface. And there, as they watch, the rest of the pods with hibernating passengers are all jettisoned to the planet’s ocean surface. And there, at the end, we are told that there are 1,300 or so survivors out of the 60,000 people that originally started the journey. Enough to colonize the planet. And you can be sure that Bower and Nadia will be parents number 1 for sure! hahahah.

“But what about those aliens infesting the ship?!? I’m so confused!!! That’s the only reason I’m on this horrible website!” I hear you screaming at your phone. Well, that’s a great question. One that we actually were given an answer for – if you were paying attention and not multitasking with Fortnite on the other screen. Apparently, all of the individuals hibernating in the pods were being given some sort of medication to allow them to adapt to the assumed conditions of the planet they were heading to. And, seeing as though, the humans that woke early had extra time to evolve over the past 800 years while on the ship at the bottom of the ocean, they adapted and adapted again until they became these horrible monsters devouring every hibernating passenger on the ship almost. Right?

Which begs the question! Are these monsters the future of the 1300 survivors that come up from the ocean? In 800 years will their children’s children’s children be these monsters as well? I would argue, why yes, yes they will be. Now, doesn’t that put a different spin on that “happy” ending they just gave us? Because now we know that they are doomed to becoming this race of zombie like creatures. Hooray! Humanity “survived” its extinction!! Woot woot! Well, sort of I guess. hahahah.

Final Thoughts on Pandorum

I have to admit, Quaid was the only thing that got me past the first 30 minutes of this movie and the painful sets and the gory interludes. I wanted to know what would happen with his character. And I was very pleasantly surprised that his character was the one that was infected by Pandorum. And that he actually was the ultimate threat of the movie. Loved that bit. I also really loved the revelation that the ship had arrived hundreds of years ago and it was sitting on the bottom of the ocean… just feet from land. Just feet from a new life on a new habitable planet. Really clever. Personally? I think this movie should be a cult classic. It was surprisingly clever on a really low budget I’m sure. I dug it.

I don’t know, I kinda dug it. What did you think of it?


Edited by, CY

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13 Responses

  1. Nyota23

    Ok, I agree with almost all of your assessment. This was a pretty fun movie to watch, and the twist at the end is a darn good one. However, I don’t think that the colonists will evolve to become the ship monsters… at least not in the same way. Consider that in the explanation, we are told that the “people” adapted to the ship instead of Tanis’ external environment. This leads me to believe that had everyone debarked in proper intervals as was originally planned, perhaps the outcome would be very different. Who knows? They could have remained humans or evolved to some even more hideous breed of monster/alien…

    The lack of follow-up to this film is personally a little disappointing, though I admit I enjoy thinking about all of the alternative outcomes that could possibly emerge from this ending.

    Great Review

    • Taylor Holmes

      As I was reading your thoughts on how the movie could work I had an idea. Which, I don’t think I discussed in this post anywhere. But as I’m not on that page, and as I haven’t read it since I wrote it maybe I did?

      Who’s to say that the “aliens” aren’t from the planet they landed on? I always assumed that the humans aboard the ship had just evolved into this self selecting terror just to stay alive. But, what if the hull of the ship was breached? Then all bets are off. I mean, we just go with the flow of the people staying contained… because we think that the ship is in space almost the whole movie. But if you work backwards, you realize that the entire movie is a long time after they have already arrived. Huh. Interesting.

      Thanks for the comment. There are tons of little dead alleys throughout this site. Sure, tons of posts have a billion comments. But I love it when someone dusts off a post and jolts it with jumper cables. Great comment.

  2. Nyota23

    Hey! You know… that thought occurred to me too…See! That’s exactly why before, I said I was disappointed in the lack of follow-up [by movie writers] to this film. So many options….

  3. SK

    I’m thinking they took inspiration from the native american wendigo legends for the monsters. When the creepy guy was giving a history lesson from his spaceship cave drawings he talked about how (I’m thinking) Gallo chopped up some people on his initial pandorum craze and then proceeded to release a bunch of people from sleep but trap them in sections of the ship where over time they ran out of food and were forced to eat each other for survival and then coupled with that injection they changed form. In the legends the wendigo monsters are formed from people (usually in the mountains and deep caverns) getting stuck someplace that they can’t get out of with human abilities and cannabalism takes place when food runs out and the survivors turn (evolve, scifi twist) into these wendigo monsters and come to dwell in these places then preying on passersby for food. Check out the movie “The Descent” (another great movie) if you haven’t, basically the same creatures but with a scifi twist in Pandorum.

  4. Dez Nutz

    The monsters are product of radiation. Payton woke up a bunch of people, he played God, then became unhappy. He forced the people to the reactor chamber, where they mutated. They mutate from being around immense amounts of radiation for hundered’s of years. If the fluids they were being fed caused them to mutate then Bower, along with everyone else, would have turned into one of them.

  5. Jme

    They adapted to they’re environment the Evolution Kickstarter drug,
    Just same thing happened to these humans. if they would have escaped to a planet with an open sky they would have evolved to the conditions of being a cave subtareanean being and they would have barely changed in such a weird and alien eay. they were living in a cave for 800 years with special evolution drug so instead of becoming super human on earth. They became super cave dwellers

  6. Kenny

    I’ve always liked this movie. The drugs that were being fed to the colonists while they were sleeping were intended to make them transition smoothly to life on the new planet, Tanis. I assume it probably had slightly different gravity and atmosphere where humans could live fine but they would be guaranteed to thrive because of the adaptation drugs. Since people woke up early on the ship they in turn evolved to life on the ship, artificial gravity, recycled air, darker artificial light and no real food to speak of. So they evolved into cannibals who survived by hunting and eating the randomly woken up passengers. They were awake for hundreds of years so they breed and had children who in turn were completely engineered to live in that environment. Now that the people are on the planet they will adapt to be just normal humans with an ability to thrive on the slightly different planet of Tanis. This is a good movie because almost the entire movie you’re led to believe that some sort of alien life interfered with their trip or some sort of disaster happened that caused them to still be in space but in the end it was just one person who decided to go crazy when earth was no longer in contact and he had nobody keeping his moral compass and check. They could definitely make a sequel of this movie and it could take place 10 or 15 years down the road where they’re developing a human society on the planet and somehow some of the mutated humans from the ship made their way to the surface and are now fighting to be the dominate species on the planet.

  7. Jamie Schumacher

    I still think the creatures are native to the planet. Or maybe they were sea creatures that got inside the ship, in an area that’s flooded. Over time they adapted, after eating colonists the creatures may suffer the affects of the drugs. So they adapt to live on the ship, to live in the unfolded areas to survive…and that all happens before the movie begins.

  8. Kenny

    No they explain that the creatures on the ship are colonists. When they are captured by the black guy he explains what happened. He says that they received word that earth was destroyed and the one dude went crazy. He killed the other two and woke up some people to play god and screw with them and do messed up stuff, then when he got bored he went back to sleep and left them to their own devices.

  9. Jamie Schumacher

    Still he says all that, but really doesn’t know… his mind is not all there. How can he “ know” what occurred while he went back to sleep. He’s assuming, but whatever.

  10. RaduN

    My opinion after seeing this movie was that the drug actually played with the colonists and crew, in a way that it made them quite insane and facilitated some form of Pandorum to infect ALL of them. As a consequence, they started to randomly see others as monsters, some acting like savages and even see monsters where they weren’t.
    In other words, no monsters, just infected humans with different symptoms.

  11. Sylvia

    I loved this movie because I legit had to cover my eyes like a little kid. AND I wondered for so long after the movie – wth was up with those monsters?
    The twist at the end was great, that they had already landed some time ago.
    No, it wasn’t a popular movie, but it’s one that I bring up occasionally.

  12. Madhu

    I think the choice is between living like cannibalistic beings in the dark or living like humans in glorious light.

    I had to read Taylor’s detailed explanation to understand the plot. Thank you Taylor


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