Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Pandorum Critique: Character Analysis

                                               Click HERE for the Narrative Analysis.

(1:47 in the video)

According to director/co-writer, Christian Alvart, character represents how civilized he/she is and how much they are all about survival. Characters exhibit various characteristics from being altruistic and cooperative to the egocentric and competitive. But some viewers says that the characters are undeveloped for odd reasons. Here is my analysis of each character from most civilized to savage. 

We do get some history on the protagonist and deuteragonist as to why they enlisted on the mission and a little bit of history of them before the flight but not much else nor even their first names. It isn't due to lazy writing but the fact that they have amnesia which makes sense as they were comatose in hyper-sleep through the use of general anesthesia. They were in such a state for over nine centuries them having long-term memory loss makes sense, this is science fiction after all

Now some people criticized the films for having all flat characters. The only reason they are saying this is because the film uses indirect characterization and which involves subtlety which people often fail to catch.Or just don't know the meaning of being a round or flat character. Being a round character has more to do with having a complex personality, he or she is portrayed as a conflicted and contradictory person(read). The point is making character feel real, writing them as human beings. This video explains it while.

Now I'm to touch on three dimensions of each character to see if they were present, except Gallo I already discussed him in the previous entry.
First Dimension: Surface traits, quirks, and habits
Second Dimension: Back Story and Inner Demons
Third Dimension: Action, Behavior, and World View
Corporal Bower (Ben Foster)

First Dimension:

Our protagonist is mechanic engineer who wields a Yaujtia-like non-lethal weapon but could be dangerous up close. As a quirk he is a claustrophobic and its the first thing we learn about him the moment he wakes up. With a running gag where he falls a lot, like nearly 20 times in the film.

Second Dimension:

He remembers his profession very well but not much of his personal life. He remembers watching the discovery of Tanis on television as a child, being inspired by the idea of sending people there. He does remember his wife, Evalon, mouthing the words "I love you" whom he believed was on the ship and hopes to found before the Hunters do. However, when his memories slowly return to him he founds out that his wife left him. He had nothing left after his divorce, so he pursued something he was inspired by since childhood and found a place in history. This infers that he was sorta loser back on Earth where Evalon remained, disappearing along with it. This along with his claustrophobic fears pushes him closer to insanity. 

Three Dimension: 
Bower is a round character as he is portrayed as both vulnerable and bold. He's afraid of closed spaces as shown when he awakes from hyper-sleep and panic due to being trapped in the pod and panics when traveling through vents needing Payton to walk him through it. Being on a ship with cramped corridors and tight vents, he doesn't have much of an option but to face down his phobia. This is one of several factors that push him towards madness.

But at the same time he is also a brave boy scout with a strong sense of altruistic morality. He risks his own life to save others. He tries to save Shepard(Norman Reedusand a Russian passenger(Jon Foster from being eaten. When Nadia suggests to leave Mahn behind in the creature's hunting ground he objects to it. He's empathetic, understanding Nadia and Leland's egocentric manages to talk them into helping him. He tries to be optimistic and believes that "a little f**king solidarity goes a long way" as he puts it. 

Bower cares about the safely of Evalon, hoping to found her before the hunters do. But when he founds out the truth that all their families are dead he temperately losses his boy scout mentality. Even though Evalon left him Bower clearly still loves her as he kept a photo of the woman. He becomes pessimistic as he truly feels that there is nothing left to live for as everyone he ever loved along with his planet is now gone, thus sees no point in going on. But Nadia convinces him to be resilient and his boy scout attitude returns, later saying that there will always be law. But Gallo plays his nasty mind game with him and exploits his fear by opening up the control room window revealing nothing but pitch black. Bower then suffers from claustrophobia due to there being no escape now and is closed in by the creatures. However Nadia snaps him out of it and they escape in a hyper-sleep pod flooded with water he selflessly gives her the oxygen mask and he holds his breath. Puts his head on Nadia's in relief that they have survived,completed their mission, and found a place in history like he wanted. However we don't know if is going be the same after this because now he has developed space madness. 

Manh (Cung Le)
First Dimension:

A spear wielding Vietnamese agricultural expert and martial artist who's name ironically means "strong". A minor character who appears to have just awaken wake and speaks no English. He's stock character that is mostly a storytelling device to infer that the mission is a global endeavor involving many cultures which was indicted by the transmission in broadcast in several languages. It kinda makes sense that some of the passengers didn't speak english with memory. There are no subtitle for his lines and that is because we are to be in the main character's shoes, as Cung Le stated in this interview.

Second Dimension:

Lacking in this category due to his lack of communication.

Third Dimension:

Mahn is a flat and static character with an "If I'm going down, I'm not going down without a fight" attitude which he displays when the hunters close in even though he knows he is physically outmatched. He just doesn't take crap laying down as shown when he tries to attack Leland for his actions.
He is a cooperative boy scout like Bower. He's the only survivor Bower has come across who isn't a foe at point of the film. He saves the lives of strangers just out of pure civility in this bleak environment and he's heroic as puts himself in danger so that Bower could save the ship. Though his civility helped saved humanity leads to his demises, making him hesitate to kill a hunter child who take advantage slitting his throat(kinda contrived).
Nadia (Antje Traue)
First Dimension: 

Nadia is the tritagonist, is a survivalist and obviously Ripley inspired. Character is used to give the audience some information about what the Hunters could be and is somewhat used as Ms. fanservice with her sweety/dirty cleavage. Yes, she's attractive but that's just a character trait that is never called attention to by the other characters and her cleavage isn't in the audience face. She'll also not a love interest as Bower has a ex-wife to worry and grieve about. She is a survivalist who uses a knife as a weapon, is athletic, and has unorthodox fighting skills. Her character is also there to infers its a mission involving the global as she is German but she speaks English fluently.

As a quirk, she is an entomophagist offering Bower a grasshopper to eat claiming that it is "good for protein" which he accepts and they eat them together, which disgusts Mahn.(image above)

Second Dimension:

Before the flight she was apart of the Brandenburg Institute genetic sampling team located in Germany. She spend seven years collecting and readying earth's biosphere for the trip to Tanis. Her motive for enlisting on the mission was that it didn't felt right handing it off the genetic samples so she volunteered to go along with it. This infers that she was a workaholic back on Earth, addicted to her workShe's been awake from months along with five others who are now dead. 

At one point in the film she pours out her heart and broods about how she knows everything about her career but not much of her personal life, like where she grew up or her brother's name.  

Third Dimension:

This character is portrayed as morally grey. Initially, she's pessimistic, egocentric, cynical, and hostile. Mugging Bower for his supplies at knife point threatening to gut him if he resists and puts a knife to his neck when he touches her. The reason for this is because she believed there wasn't any crew left to fly them where they were going she results to every-man-for-himself tactics. She's willing to leave people behind if they slow her down as she believes that running is always the best option. This has also caused her to become a  loner who doesn't immediately join with Bower, she doesn't trust him. That's because it others have resulted to tactics similar to her's in order to survive as shown with Leland who tries to kill her, Mahn, and Bower to use them as food.

However, she's not devoid of positives as she can be protective and sympathetic towards others. As shown during her second mugging where Bower resists her she shows compassion after making Bower fall from a great distance, contradicts herself by asking if he is "okay" instead of gutting him. This infers that she has a problem hurting others and doesn't have it in her to actually gut someone. She's protective of an Embryonic chamber that holds livestock, wildlife re-population, and Ecological development, because it holds the world they are going to live in as she puts it. She also saves a hunter child from being killed thinking it was a human being.

She goes through a character where she learns solidarity. As after Bower saves her from being cannibalized she warms up to towards him and cares able him founding Evalon. Showing empathy by giving him emotional support to help him remain optimistic and motivated after founding out the truth about Evalon. Telling him that she saved his life and preaches that humanity was meant to go on, survive, and now that its more important than ever, causing Bower to move forward. She also defends him from Gallo and snapping him out of insanity. In return he risks drowning himself and comforts her after they survived the ordeal, firmly telling her "its safe to wake up now" making her smile.

Leland (Eddie Rouse)

First Dimension:

Leland is an old hermit cook turned survivalist. He tells what happens on the ship based on the accounts of other passengers say "that's what some would say" whom I assume were other people Gallo drove insane. 

Second Dimension:

He has survived for years by killing, cooking, and feeding on both humans and hunters. He states that he wouldn't have survived this long if he had a heart(aka altruism).

Third Dimension:

Leland is a static and an almost round character. He is more extreme version of Nadia, he is about self-preservation and didn't think there was any crew left, but is willing to kill. He's all pretty cynical, stating he didn't survive this long trusting strangers and proves this points himself. He displays dishonesty by trying to be funny and offering the group soup stating it is "Kosher" before revealing his true selfish intentions. His behavior pattern is consistent as he shuts the door behind Bower and Nadia when they try to get to the control room as they are being chased by the Hunters. Which leads to him getting killed by Gallo, if he had waited for them Bower would have subdued Gallo.

Its just survival of the fittest or maybe the brightest as he puts it. He's 
pessimistic, believing that there is really nothing else to live for other than to go by survival instincts and live as long as he can. Earth is gone so no rescue and they lost control of the ship so no escape. He doesn't just say it isn't personal, as like Nadia he truly doesn't want any blood on his hands. Like with Nadia Bower understands his actions, stating that he did what he had to do to survive and no one was going to judge him. Then Leland's facial expression and body language shows signs of guilt for he what he has done(image above) and doesn't want to be judged. This actually humanizes him showing he is conflicted and actually does have a heart, this is out of pure desperation. 

The Hunters 

The Hunters continue the game Gallo started with their ancestors as shown in the drawings. They're behavior had nothing to do with the enzyme, that only helped them survived on the ship. Nor do they need humans as a source of food as there is nutrition from other sources like feeding tubes from hyper-sleep pods, water dipping from the ceiling, algae that was growing around the ship which Leland used as a source of food and the Hunter child was eating some. There's not enough humans to support these creatures for centuries. They are cannibals by choice like primitive cannibal tribe in reality and that's what Gallo means by "natural state" which is defined as a wild primitive state untouched by civilization. 

They are far from mindless animals since they are smart enough to build blowtorch spears, they wear armored clothing(made up of skin, bone, metal around the ship), and its shown that they teach their young how to fight. Their bodies being covered in scars is an indication of their long warrior culture that lasted for centuries. Just look at the image below comparing the hunters to their ancestors hanging people and cutting their stomach open. 

So as you can see, there was a decent amount of characterization. So how can some people that they were underdeveloped? My guess is that they judging by the standards of character driven stories and think that a good character is  someone with charisma.

The Survival Theme

The movie ends showing the population of Tanis being "1213" with an ellipsis appearing after it implying that numbers is going to grow and history is going to repeat itself. Christian Alvart did state that he wanted to rise questions about humanity with this film, similar to Lord of The Flies

The ending echos the beginning showing the technological evolution(foreshadowing)  of space travel and showing the human population number evolving, growing. Throughout history, populations have grown slowly despite high birth rates due to the population-reducing effects of war, plagues and high infant mortality. Which is called a Malthusian trap  and Malthusianism is the theory that population tends to increase faster than resources unless things such as moral restraint keeps the population growth in check or war reduces the population, called Malthusian catastrophe. 

As one of the characters state "It's just survival of the fittest...Or maybe it's the brightest", a phrase is widely used as a catchphrase for any topic related to evolution by means of natural selection. It has also be used as a synonym to other dialogue mentioned in the film such as "every man for himself" and "dog eat dog" both which describe egoistic competitive situations. They're all summed up as the The Law of the Jungle which some believe should apply to humans believing that social process resulted from conflicts in which the fittest or best adapted individuals, or groups, would prevail. Such a philosophy is referred to as Social Darwinism which happens to be based on the Malthusian concept that humans require competition in order to survive in the future. Something that Gallo obviously believed.

The mission was about the survival of humanity and both evolution and paranoid are survival mechanisms. Its not just these creatures who are hunters but survivalist such as the mugger Nadia and the cannibal Leland who survived as long as they did by programming themselves to be savages in their hostile environment where it is every man for himself. As Leland states "I'm a little too old & too tired for the honorable way of hunting game". They had be egoistic savages in order to prevail or as Leland put it "I wouldn't have survived this long if I had a heart", heart meaning capacity for sympathy which leads to altruistic behavior. 

An example is shown with Mahn, who remained civilized and died because of it, evoking the "kill or be killed" themeThis reflects Gallo's view, that a civilized state conflicts with survival while a wild state is perfect, as our moralistic altruism are chains that holds us back from what is, dog eat dog (or life eats life as he puts it) because that hunter/prey dynamic has kept the population in wildlife in check and that is what the hunters present. In contrast to his view is solidarity, unity of sympathies among a group which Bower believes goes a long way when it comes to survival. This is reflected through Leland, who died as a result of his of selfishness and the fact that humanity survived due the solidarity that Mahn and Nadia displayed. The film is addressing the positives and negatives of civility and savagery in regards to survival.

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