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Theatrical release poster
Directed byChristian Alvart
Produced by
Screenplay byTravis Milloy
Story by
  • Travis Milloy
  • Christian Alvart
Music byMichl Britsch
CinematographyWedigo von Schultzendorff
Edited by
  • Philipp Stahl
  • Yvonne Valdez
Distributed by
Release date
  • 25 September 2009 (2009-09-25) (United States)
  • 1 October 2009 (2009-10-01) (Germany)
  • 2 October 2009 (2009-10-02) (United Kingdom)
Running time
108 minutes[1]
  • Germany
  • United Kingdom
Budget$33 million
Box office$20.6 million[2]

Pandorum is a 2009 science fiction horror film, with elements of 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 25 September 2009 in the United States,[3] and on 2 October 2009 in the UK. The film's title is a fictional slang term for a form of psychosis called Orbital Dysfunctional Syndrome (ODS) caused by deep space and triggered by emotional stress. This leads leading to severe paranoia, delirium, and nosebleeding.


In 2174, human overpopulation has depleted all the resources on Earth, leading humanity to build a huge interstellar ark named Elysium. It carries 60,000 people on a 123-year trip to colonize an Earth-like planet named Tanis, set to arrive in 2297. The passengers are placed in hypersleep, with a rotating crew who take turns awakening from hypersleep every two years to maintain the ship. 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, Corporal Bower and Lieutenant Payton, are awakened. Improper emergence from the hibernatory state leaves them both with partial amnesia. The ship is experiencing power surges caused by an unstable nuclear reactor, and they are unable to enter the bridge.

While Payton stays behind to attempt to access the ship's computer, Bower ventures into the seemingly abandoned ship using the ventilation system with the intention of stabilising the reactor. He begins to suffer from "Orbital Dysfunction Syndrome," a severe psychotic illness known to affect deep-space travelers, commonly called "Pandorum." Pandorum led to the failure of a previous mission, as a Officer of the starship called Eden became so afflicted with Pandorum that he became convinced that the flight was cursed and ejected all 5,000 passengers into deep space to their deaths.

Bower encounters Nadia, a geneticist, and Manh, an agriculturist, and they are attacked by a group of fast and vicious cannibalistic humanoids with a seemingly tribal culture. The trio flees into a barricaded chamber and finds a cook named Leland, who has been awake for years, living off the water leaking into the ship, the algae it creates, and resorting to cannibalism. Meanwhile, Payton finds a young man named Corporal Gallo, who claims that the ship is lost in space. He claimed that he killed his team in self-defense because they developed Pandorum after finding out that Earth mysteriously vanished.

Leland gives food to Bower's group and shows them mural drawings depicting their true origin. According to the drawings, after Earth vanished following an unknown catastrophe, Gallo went insane. After killing his team, he begins to "play God" by awakening passengers and abusing them until they developed Pandorum. Taking advantage of their mental state, Gallo then convinced these passengers to exile themselves to the ship's enormous cargo hold and survive by fighting, torturing and eating each other. Eventually, Gallo went back into hypersleep, leaving the descendants of the psychotics to evolve. After multiple generations, accelerated by an enzyme intended to help them adapt to the new environment on Tanis, the passengers and their descendants adapted to their living condition and became a troglofauna species, with Gallo's savage game becoming the centre of their culture.

After eating Leland's drug-laden food, the group falls asleep. When they wake up, Leland is preparing to kill and butcher them. Bower convinces him to let them fix the ship's reactor, otherwise the ship will be destroyed, killing them all. Noticing the ship's power has been unstable recently, Leland agrees to free the group. Bower hopes to find his wife on the ship before the creatures do, but later his memories come back to him and he remembers that she divorced him and stayed on Earth, disappearing along with the rest of the planet. This revelation almost makes him give up on the mission and pushes him closer to insanity.

When Bower's group finds the reactor, they find a large crowd of mutants sleeping around it. Bower tries to access the reactor computer by sneaking but fails. While Manh distracts the mutants, Bower restarts the reactor, killing many mutants. Leland flees, and Manh is cornered by the mutant leader. In a one-on-one fight, Manh kills the leader but is then killed by a mutant child that he hesitates to slay.

As Gallo becomes increasingly aggressive, Payton grows more worried and prepares a sedative injection to subdue him. After the power is restored, Payton attempts to access the bridge, but Gallo assaults him and injects him with his own syringe. Gallo suddenly disappears, leaving Payton holding the syringe in his own hand. It is revealed that Gallo killed the real Payton long ago. Because he went into Payton's pod, he mistakenly believed himself to be Payton.

Leland makes his way to the bridge, and Gallo kills him by stabbing him with the syringe. When Bower and Nadia confront him, Gallo opens the shutters on the bridge's windows, revealing that the ship is adrift in deep space with no stars visible. The shock from the revelation pushes Bower even further to insanity and he begins to break down. Taking advantage of Bower's mental state, Gallo tries to convince him that they must maintain the violent society rather than attempt to revive civilization.

However, Nadia observes bioluminescent ocean life through the windows, and the computer displays that 923 years have elapsed since the mission launched. It turns out that the ship reached Tanis 800 years ago, and automatically landed itself in the ocean. Gallo attacks Bower and Nadia, and Bower hallucinates mutants invading the bridge. In his delirium, Bower accidentally breaks a window and water pours into the ship. Nadia manages to snap Bower to reality, and they climb into a hypersleep pod, while Gallo and the remaining mutants drown. The flood triggers an emergency protocol which ejects all active pods 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, in 3097, with 1,213 survivors from the original 60,000 passengers.



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, but due to a deal with Contender Films in the UK, 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. According to Travis Milloy, it was to have a sequel and a prequel.[4] If it performed well, Impact Pictures could green-light one or more sequels.[6]

The DVD and Blu-ray Disc release occurred on 19 January 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.


Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports an approval rating of 29% based on 84 reviews and an average rating of 4.2/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "While it might prove somewhat satisfying for devout sci-fi fans, Pandorum's bloated, derivative plot ultimately leaves it drifting in space."[10] At Metacritic, which judges on a 0–100 scale, the film holds a "generally unfavorable" score of 28 based on 13 reviews.[11]

Science fiction magazine SFX stated that "Pandorum is the finest interstellar horror in years" and awarded the film 4 stars out of 5.[12] Film Ireland also gave Pandorum a positive review, appreciating the film's synergy of cinematic techniques, set design, and developed characters.[13]

The film grossed $20.6 million worldwide on a $33 million budget.[2] The film opened at #6 at the US box office with weekend receipts totaling $4.4 million. Poor return due to lack of promotion was a contributing factor to Overture Films' declaration of bankruptcy several months later.[14]


Pandorum OST.jpg
Soundtrack album by Michl Britsch
Released25 September 2009
LabelKönigskinder Schallplatten GmbH
ProducerMichl 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. ^ "BBFC reference AFF259019: Pandorum". 22 September 2009. Archived from the original on 31 October 2009. Retrieved 27 September 2009.
  2. ^ a b "Pandorum (2009)". Box Office Mojo. 19 November 2009. Retrieved 5 February 2016.
  3. ^ "Pandorum". Coming Soon Media, L.P. Retrieved 25 June 2009.
  4. ^ a b "Travis Milloy". Fielding on Film. 9 December 2011. Retrieved 5 February 2016.
  5. ^ a b c Dave McNary (8 May 2008). "Quaid, Foster set for 'Pandorum'". Variety. Retrieved 5 February 2016.
  6. ^ a b c "Impact finds $40 mil to make 'Pandorum'". 7 November 2008. Archived from the original on 6 December 2008. Retrieved 1 December 2008.
  7. ^ Christian Koehl (5 August 2008). "'Pandorum' secures German funds". Variety. Retrieved 5 February 2016.
  8. ^ Overture Films. "PANDORUM - Now Available on DVD & Blu-ray". Retrieved 5 February 2016.
  9. ^ Barton, Steve (16 November 2009). "Exclusive: Shock Festival Wallpapers and Radio Spots". Dread Central. Retrieved 5 February 2016.
  10. ^ "Pandorum (2009)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  11. ^ "Pandorum Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  12. ^ Kevin Harley on (2 October 2009). "Pandorum review | GamesRadar". Retrieved 5 February 2016.
  13. ^ McGlynn, Jack (29 October 2009). "Pandorum Review". Film Ireland. Retrieved 1 November 2009.
  14. ^ Eller, Claudia (23 July 2010). "Overture Films ends three-year run, hands off marketing and distribution to Relativity Media". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 28 November 2017.

External links[edit]