Monday, April 27, 2015

Pandorum Video Critique Part 1 (Transcription)

The Premise:

Pandorum is a Survival-Adventure/Mystery/Horror film released in 2009. Directed and co-written by Christian Alvart, produced by Paul W.S. Anderson.

Pandorum(which sounds like a mixed word between paranoia and delirium) is the nickname of a psychosis called Oribital Dysfunctional Syndrome. Which causes severe paranoia, delirium, and nosebleed that results from space travel and is a throwback to the classic science fiction trope known as "space madness", which somewhat happens in real life.(insert clip)

The basic plot is about a sleeper ship and interstellar ark carrying 60,000 on a mission now lost in space. The mission being a one-way ticket to colonize an earth-like Tanis because Earth's population has grown to the point where its exceeding the carry capacity. The trip is 123 years long so the crew and passengers being of multiple cultural backgrounds ranging from American, Indian, Russian, German, to Vietnamese. Also indicated by the transmission in multiple languages saying "You're all that's left of us. Good luck, God bless, and God's speed".

But eight years later into the mission two men named Corporeal Bower and Lieutenant Payton a are awaken from hypersleep by power surges. They found that the ship is roamed by tribal pale creatures who feed on both humans and themselves, with physical abilities above that of humans. Worse, the ship going to blow if the nuclear reactor of the ship is not fixed so Bower sends out to fix it with the help of survivors named Nadia, Mahn, and Leland. As well as found out what happened on the ship and what is going on.

The Back Story:

The film began life as a preliminary script written by Travis Milloy in the late-1990s. Inspired by The Poseidon Adventure , the story was originally  set on a prison ship named ''Pandorum'', transporting thousands of Earth's deadliest prisoners to another planet; the cannibal hunters were the end result of the prisoners' degeneration. The characters played by Antje Traue and Cung Le were inmates. Ben Foster's character was a non-prisoner who did not trust anyone.

It would eventually attract the attention of filmmaker Paul W. S. Anderson and Jeremy Bolt, and they gave it to Impact Pictures, who green-lit it. The producers gave the script to director Christian Alvart who was struck by the similarities to his own screenplay titled ''No Where''. His dramatic story was about four astronauts aboard a settlers' ship who suffer from amnesia. Alvart decided that they should meld the two screenplays together, and the producers and Milloy agreed. With the ship now changed to a settler's ship, the use of the word "Pandorum" was changed from the name of the ship to a type of mental illness caused by sustained deep space travel.

The script Alvart and Milloy made slightly differs from the direction. Its creepier than the film itself and some mix martial arts actions were added that weren't in the script. I have a strong feeling that this was Paul W.S. Anderson or the studio's doing into order to make it a spiritual successor to his Resident Evil film, because that is what it was advertised as. They also added in an prologue that wasn't in the original screenplay.

The History:

Of course the basic premise isn't anything new. Its genre that dates back to 1938 with The Black Destroy and Discord in Scarlet by A. E. van Vogt, who is considered to be the most popular and influential author of the Gold Age of Science Fiction. This premise made its way into an episode of Doctor Who called the Ark in Space, into film with It! The Terror From Beyond Space. The genre would then be parodied by John Carpenter's debut Dark Star, who's co-writer Dan O'Bannon of said parody would go on to write the classic Alien, which stood out due to its subtle theme of sexually assault and its creative monster. Then A. E. pressed plagiarism charges on FOX and almost every spaceship horror post-Alien try to imitate it(Creature, Alien 2: On Earth, Alien Contamination).

But this isn't a bad thing. Most people don't watch movies for a completely unique premise. Look at all the financially successful alien invasion genre(The Body Snatcher, They Live, Independence Day, Skyline, Battle Los Angeles, Edge of Tomorrow)  and that dates back all the way back to 1897 with HG Wells' War of The Worlds. Or Man vs Machine genre(Terminator, The Matrix, I Robot, Days of Future Past, Age of Ultron). And of course there is the zombie apocalypse genre (Night of The Dead, Return of The Living Dead, 28 Days Later, World War Z). 

With the exception of the Alien franchise none of the movies of this genre have been successful neither critically or financially. Most of them are widely considered bad and are just pale intimations of Alien. But there are handful which have gained a cult following over the years. Such as aforementioned Dark Star, 1981's Galaxy of Terror, 1997's Event Horizon, and this film.

The Reception:

Now lets get into the initial critical reception which was mostly sub-par, mixed, and just thought the movie was "meh". With around 30% of critics liking it. The quick cuts fight scenes are one of the few reasonable criticisms this film. Others criticized the film for the characters whispering being hard to understand and it being somewhat too dark. But I think the former is fair but latter isn't as its a ship where the power is out.

Some had very subjective criticisms like the pacing being slow, but their are many that think its pretty fast. Others subjective criticisms that it just wasn't scary or it was hard to follow. But there were some criticisms that were based inattention, contextomy, and/or flat out bias. Some people even criticize this movie for actually having science in, which I'll explain later.

The main factor for its poor opening was the lack of advertisement. As the description on the facebook fan page notes that most of its member found out about the film through Netflix  or late night television. This was due Overture Films obviously lacking the budget for a decent promotion as evident by the studio filing for bankruptcy several months later.  Let Me In, another Overture Film production suffered the same fate because of this as well, making around the same amount of money. Lets also not forget the competition(Surrogates and Paranormal Activity). So even if this was well received critically it would have bombed.

Another problem with the advertisement was that the film was mismarketed. There were posters that showed images that had nothing to do with the film's plot. Here is why this is a problem as Chuck Stuckmann puts it:(insert clip) This of course lead to some poor word of mouth when they found out they got a zombie survival horror story.

However, the film would gain a significant cult following in 2013 due to two factors. Mainly due to a wide-spread prank regarding the hit TV series The Walking Dead. One of the of the main stars of the series Norman Reese appeared in this film as a redshirt to be eaten by the film's monsters. His death scene was used by pranksters to make it look like Reese's character was going to die in the next season of the show(some people still use it to this day). When this was revealed to be a hoax, naturally zombie survival fans were curious to know where the image was from. Now people were watching the film expecting a zombie survival horror story, getting that and much more.

Man of Steel was also released that year which featured the beloved character Faora, played by Antje Traue who is the female lead in this movie. Naturally, this lead to people wanting to found out more about actress and her character in this film does have some similarities to Faora. The film also begins up morality and evolution which Faora talked about in one scene.

Now there are a good number of people that think this film is underrated, to a criminally level by some. As evident by the Google search prediction and its ratings on Netflix from over a million people. But is it? That's what this critique is for. Here is an unbiased and insightful look at Pandorum!

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