Ever since Alien showed the dark flip side of 2001: A Space Odyssey, filmgoers have been disabused in one movie after another of any thought that going where humans haven’t gone before can be a noble journey.
These two films — Pandorum and Event Horizon — do, however, take the position that noble or not, being in some parts of space is definitely not boring.
You won’t sleep through either one.
Cold, hostile, horrific space, set in the middle of this century — that’s our Smackdown…
When Pandorum starts with astronauts like Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster waking up unexpectedly from a deep sleep, you know (especially if you saw Alien) that no damn good can come from it. Before long, it’s a life-or-death struggle with hissing, flesh-eating CGI creations.
The Defending Champion
A dozen years ago, Event Horizon mixed sci-fi and horror in the story of a space ship on a rescue mission to save another ship that disappeared years ago somewhere near Neptune, which in space terms is shorthand for being so far away that nobody can come help you if things get weird. Of course, the crew finds the original lost spacecraft, and the games begin. In these space Olympics, minds are bent, reality is twisted, and the ship, it turns out, has literally been to hell and back. Hell, presumably, is well-past Neptune.
Both of these films pilfer liberally from what has come before, from Solaris to Alien, lifting and separating with reckless abandon. Neither one of them won over the critics upon release, although Event Horizon seems to be picking up steam in Blu-ray release. Paul Anderson directs Event Horizon and produces on Pandorum, but in the annals of sci-fi, that only means he’s 0-2. Still, there is a propulsion of creepiness in Event Horizon where the left turn of leaving space for a literal hell actually feels freshly horrific. Pandorum feels muddled and floundering. While Event Horizon had Sam Neil and Laurence Fishburne acting up a space-storm, Pandorum locks Dennis Quaid into reading most of his dialogue over an intercom, saying things like “Bower, do you read me?”
Life is short. Pandorum has nothing new to say until, basically, the end. It’s never clear where you are in the ship or what’s going on or what’s at stake. It’s a soft mess, while Event Horizon gives a go at saying that, out there in the void, there are some surprises in store. It’s not perfect, but it takes the Smack on points.