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For the game based on the film, see Pandorum (video game).
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Christian Alvart
Produced by Robert Kulzer
Jeremy Bolt
Paul W. S. Anderson
Screenplay by Travis Milloy
Story by Travis Milloy
Christian Alvart
Starring Dennis Quaid
Ben Foster
Cam Gigandet
Antje Traue
Cung Le
Eddie Rouse
Music by Michl Britsch
Cinematography Wedigo von Schultzendorff
Edited by Philipp Stahl
Yvonne Valdez
Constantin Film
Impact Pictures
Distributed by Overture Films (USA)
Constantin Film (Germany/Austria)
Icon Productions (UK/Australia)
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (international sales)
M6 (France)
Release dates
  • September 25, 2009 (2009-09-25) (United States)
  • October 2, 2009 (2009-10-02) (United Kingdom)
Running time
108 minutes[1]
Country Germany
United Kingdom
Language English
Budget US$33 million
Box office $20,645,327[2]

Pandorum is a German-British 2009 post-apocalyptic science fiction film, with elements of locked room mystery, lovecraftian horror, and survival adventure. The film was directed by Christian Alvart and produced by Robert Kulzer, Jeremy Bolt and Paul W.S. Anderson. Travis Milloy wrote the screenplay from a story by Milloy and Alvart. It stars Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster. Filming began in Berlin in August 2008. Pandorum was released on September 25, 2009 in the United States,[3] and on October 2, 2009 in the UK.

The film's title is a nickname of a fictional psychosis called "Orbital Dysfunctional Syndrome" (ODS for short) caused by deep space and triggered by emotional stress leading to severe paranoia, delirium, and nosebleeding. The film received mixed to negative reviews, but had gained a cult following over time.


In 2174, the human population has exceeded the carry capacity of Earth, leading humanity to build an interstellar ark named Elysium. Its mission is to send 60,000 people on a 123-year trip to establish a colony on an Earth-like planet named Tanis. The passengers and crew are placed in hypersleep, with the crew on a hypersleep rotation to cover the entire journey. Eight years into the mission the ship receives a transmission from Earth in multiple languages: "You're all that's left of us. Good luck, God bless, and godspeed."

Some unknown time later two members of the flight crew, altruistic claustrophobe Corporal Bower and level-headed Lieutenant Payton, are awakened from hypersleep. Improper emergence from hypersleep leaves them both with a troublesome amount of amnesia due to being under general anesthesia for eight years. The ship is suffering from power surges caused by an unstable reactor, which leaves them unable to enter the bridge. Bower ventures deeper into the seemingly abandoned ship to jump-start the reactor before it goes critical. He begins to remember how he was inspired by the flight since childhood while also having flashbacks of his wife whom he hopes to find in hyper-sleep on the ship. After having a panic attack in an air duct, he begins to suffer from Pandorum, a severe psychological illness which once caused a space captain to send his entire crew to their deaths believing the flight was cursed.

Bower is then attacked by a woman who wrestles him down and threatens to kill him for his shoes, but then flees when light is seen and noises are heard down the hallway. He narrowly avoids being seen by a crowd of pale-skinned humanoids. These creatures possess heightened senses of smell and strength and wield primitive spears. The humanoids are cannibals, attacking both humans and each other when they are weak, but are intelligent enough to set traps throughout the ship. Bower encounters another human, but the creatures pursue them and he is captured and eaten alive. Bower is saved by Manh, a Vietnamese-speaking agriculturist and skilled combatant, losing the radio which kept him in touch with Payton during the escape. He also meets the woman from earlier: Nadia, a former geneticist who has survived for months by attacking and stealing from other humans and living off livestock cloned from Earth's animals. Despite Nadia's solitary and ruthless disposition, he convinces the two to accompany him on his way to the reactor, and they travel further into the ship. A group of the humanoids attacks Bower's group, and they flee into a barricaded chamber where another human, a cook named Leland, has been living for a long time.

Meanwhile, Payton is trying to access the bridge when he is surprised by a strange young man named Corporal Gallo, who is in a severe state of shock and states that the ship is lost in space. Gallo, once overcoming his shock, claims that he had to kill his rotation team in self-defense because they developed Pandorum after Earth mysteriously vanished. He speaks with gruesome fascination of Pandorum, causing Payton to display its early symptoms, and continues to act insolently and provoke him.

Leland invites Bower's team to dinner, showing them mural drawings depicting the true story of Gallo's past and telling them what he heard from other passengers. According to Leland, Gallo developed Pandorum when the ship received news of Earth's disappearance, as did any humans that he brought out of hypersleep. Gallo then manipulated the other psychotics into exiling themselves within the massive ship to play a game which involved fighting, capturing, torturing, and eating each other. Eventually Gallo went back into hypersleep, leaving the descendants of the psychotics to evolve over the course of successive generations into the humanoids who continue the game Gallo started with their ancestors. Their mutation is due to an enzyme in the nutrition produced in the hypersleep pod's feeding tubes that was supposed to both help their bodies adjust to the conditions on Tanis and speed up evolutionary ecological selection. Instead, they ended up adapting to the ship's environment, becoming a troglofauna species as a result. As the story draws to a close, Bower's team falls unconscious.

They wake to find themselves hanging from chains by their feet. Leland admits that he intends to eat them, but relents when Bower informs him that the power surges indicate that reactor failure will occur in less than an hour. Leland releases them and joins them as they resume their mission. Bower regains more of his memory when his party reaches the passengers' hypersleep chambers. He finds that they are all empty and comes to the conclusion that their families are all dead. Nadia tries to keep him optimistic, saying that his wife could still be alive elsewhere on the ship. However, Bower recalls that his wife had left him, motivating him to join Elysium‍ '​s crew as he had nothing else left on earth. Bower sinks into depression over the loss of his ex-wife and almost gives up on saving the ship. But Nadia helps him remain motivated, saying that his wife actually saved his life and that humanity was meant to go on and survive. Then Bower remembers something about Payton.

When Bower's group finds the reactor, they also find that it is the lair for a large Hunter community. Bower fails to make a stealthy approach, and Manh acts as a distraction while Bower restarts the reactor, destroying most of the humanoids. Leland flees, and Manh is cornered by their leader, who challenges him to single combat. He defeats the leader, but then is killed when he hesitates to slay a humanoid child afterward.

With the power restored, Payton can finally access the bridge, but Gallo assaults him to prevent him going. Gallo injects Payton with a sedative, but suddenly disappears, leaving Payton holding the syringe himself. It is revealed that "Payton" was hallucinating his younger self and is actually an older Gallo. Leland appears and Gallo incapacitates him with the sedative, then enters the bridge. Bower and Nadia soon arrive, with Bower's amnesia cleared away, now remembering that the man in Payton's uniform is not the Payton he knows from his rotation.

Gallo opens the shutters on the bridge's windows, revealing that the ship is apparently lost somewhere in space where no stars are visible. The revelation is the final stress that causes Bower to slip fully into Pandorum, allowing Gallo to manipulate him like he did the ancestors of the humanoids. He tries to convince Bower that they must continue the wild primitive state within the ship rather than reviving human civilization, since that had led to the overpopulation of Earth.

However, both Gallo and his hallucination have been lying about the ship's location the whole time. Nadia observes bioluminescent ocean life through the windows, and the computer displays that 923 years have elapsed since the mission began- 800 of which the ship has spent underwater after arriving at Tanis and automatically landing itself. Gallo attacks Bower and Nadia, but Bower's psychosis causes him to hallucinate humanoids invading the bridge. In his delirium, Bower breaks a window and water pours into the ship, drowning Gallo and all the remaining humanoids. Nadia manages to snap Bower to reality, and they get into a hypersleep pod. The flood triggers a hull breach emergency which automatically ejects all active pods (theirs as well as those of surviving colonists) to the surface.

Bower and Nadia surface near a lush coastline, and witness the other pods ascending one by one. Thus begins Year One on Tanis, with 1,213 survivors from the original 60,000 humans.



The film began life as a preliminary script written by Travis Milloy in the late-1990s. 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.

Believing no studio would want to make the film, Milloy thought about making it as a low-budget film shot on video in an abandoned paper mill with unknown actors. However, it attracted 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.[4]

Pandorum was announced in May 2008 with Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster in lead roles. Christian Alvart was attached to direct the film, based on a script by Travis Milloy. The movie was financed by Constantin Film through a joint venture deal with subsidiary Impact Pictures.[5] The partnership helped fund the $40 million production. Constantin drew subsidies from Germany's Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg (MBB) regional film fund, the German Federal Film Board (de) (FFA) and the German Federal Film Fund (de) (DFFF). The German Federal Film Fund provided $6 million to the production, the fund's second-largest 2008 payout after $7.5 million for Ninja Assassin.[6][7] Filming took place at Babelsberg Studios in Potsdam in August 2008.[5][6]

Release, director's cut, and sequel[edit]

Ben Foster, Cung Le and Antje Traue talk about Pandorum at a panel discussion at WonderCon 2009.

Summit Entertainment handled foreign sales and presented Pandorum to buyers at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival due to a deal with Contender Films in the UK, so instead Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures took over and handled foreign sales to the film.[5] Overture Films distributed Pandorum in North America, Icon in the United Kingdom and Australia, Svensk in Scandinavia, and Movie Eye in Japan. The film was set up as a possible franchise, so that if it performed well, Impact Pictures could green-light one or more sequels.[6]

The DVD and Blu-ray Disc release occurred on January 19, 2010 in the United States[8] over Anchor Bay Entertainment.[9]

The director and producer commentaries on the DVD indicate that an unrated version of the movie exists but has not been released.

The film had gained a cult following, as in 2010 fans started a Facebook group – 500,000 to get Pandorum sequel – To help reassure the producers to make sure a sequel comes out. Director Christian Alvart later became a member of the group.[10]


Pandorum mostly gained average/mixed or subpar reviews. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports the film holding 28% positive reviews out of 81, with the site rating it 4.2/10.[11] The site's consensus is that "While it might prove somewhat satisfying for devout sci-fi fans, Pandorum's bloated, derivative plot ultimately leaves it drifting in space".[11]

At Metacritic, which judges on a 0–100 scale, the film holds a "generally unfavorable" score of 28 based on 13 reviews.[12] Science fiction magazine SFX was more positive, stating that "Pandorum is the finest interstellar horror in years", and awarding the film 4 stars out of 5.[13] Film Ireland also gave Pandorum a positive review, appreciating the film's synergy of cinematic techniques, set design, and developed characters.[14]

The film grossed $20,645,327 worldwide, therefore failing to bring back its $33 million budget.[2] The film opened at #6 at the US box office with weekend receipts totaling $4,424,126. This is probably due to lack of advertisement as the Facebook fanpage mentioned above states that most of its members only learned about the film through Netflix or late night television. The lack of promotion was likely due Overtue Films lacking the budget, as the studio went bankrupt a several months later. It is also possibly due to the fact it had to compete with Paranormal Activity and Surrogates.


Pandorum OST.jpg
Soundtrack album by Michl Britsch
Released September 25, 2009
Recorded 2009
Genre Electronic
Length 71:06
Label Königskinder Schallplatten GmbH
Producer Michl Britsch

Track listing

  1. "All That Is Left of Us" (2:43)
  2. "Pandorum" (3:58)
  3. "Anti Riot" (4:17)
  4. "Shape" (2:03)
  5. "Hunting Party" (2:48)
  6. "Kulzer Complex" (4:40)
  7. "Tanis Probe Broadcast" (2:01)
  8. "Scars" (2:20)
  9. "Fucking Solidarity" (3:28)
  10. "Gallo's Birth" (2:22)
  11. "Biolab Attack" (2:25)
  12. "Kanyrna" (3:22)
  13. "The Stars All Look Alike" (4:32)
  14. "Boom" (3:55)
  15. "Reactor" (4:08)
  16. "Skin on Skin" (3:21)
  17. "Fight Fight Fight" (2:56)
  18. "Bower's Trip" (7:51)
  19. "Discovery / End Credits" (7:55)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ PANDORUM rated 15 by the BBFC
  2. ^ a b "Pandorum". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2011-09-20. 
  3. ^ "Pandorum". Coming Soon Media, L.P. Retrieved 2009-06-25. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b c McNary, Dave (May 8, 2008). "Quaid, Foster set for 'Pandorum'". Variety. Retrieved August 8, 2008. 
  6. ^ a b c Roxborough, Scott (November 7, 2008). "Impact finds $40 mil to make 'Pandorum'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 1, 2008. 
  7. ^ Koehl, Christian (August 5, 2008). "'Pandorum' secures German funds". Variety. Retrieved August 8, 2008. 
  8. ^ The official Pandorum movie site
  9. ^ "First Word on Pandorum Home Video Release". 
  10. ^
  11. ^ a b Pandorum at Rotten Tomatoes
  12. ^ "Pandorum". Metacritic. Retrieved 2009-10-14. 
  13. ^ FILM REVIEW: Pandorum | SFX
  14. ^ McGlynn, Jack (October 29, 2009). "Pandorum Review". Film Ireland. Retrieved 2009-11-01. 

External links[edit]