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Film: Pandorum

Gallo: Do you know the symptoms of Pandorum?
Payton: I've seen it before.
Gallo: Ever witnessed the symptoms firsthand? It's not something you can easily detect, starts with a shiver, an itch, a slow boil, the biological side effects of flying deep space feeding into paranoia and a paranoid brain feeding the side effects - a downward spiral. There is no shutting off the heat. No matter what you do, it'll boil over.

Pandorum is a sci-fi/mystery/adventure/horror film released in September of 2009 and starring Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster, which echoes The Time Machine, The Star Lost, When Worlds Collide, and Alien. Bower (Foster), a flight engineer on board a colony sleeper ship designed to settle the distant Earth-like planet of Tanis, wakes up unexpectedly from hypersleep with gaping holes in his memory and finds the ship almost without power and apparently deserted. He finally manages to wake up a fellow member of the flight crew, Payton (Quaid), and the two of them set about getting out of the control room they're locked into and finding out what happened to the crew.

With Bower descending into the bowels of the ship and Payton guiding him via a radio and a crank-powered control panel, it soon becomes evident that the men are not alone on board the Elysium - a few other passengers have resorted to survival of fittest mode due to being hunted by roving bands of mysterious tribal flesh-eating troglofaunal hominids.

Or is it all in Payton and Bower's heads, hallucinations brought on by the onset of Pandorum, a particularly nasty brand of cabin fever that resulted in the murder of the crew and passengers of a similar ship years before?

Has a character page under construction.

This film provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Adam and Eve Plot: Barely averted; at the end, it looks as though Bower and Nadia are all that remains of humanity, until other lifepods begin bobbing to the surface.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: Used at the beginning (to get out of the hypersleep chamber) rather than later on to escape as per usual.
  • Amnesiac Dissonance: Payton is a professional officer who does whatever he can to help Bower reach his goal and save everyone. At least until he remembers that he's actually Corporal Gallo, and the reasons that turned Gallo into an Ax-Crazy nihilist in the first place.
  • And I Must Scream: The crewman and other passengers ejected into space by their insane colleague.
  • Apocalypse How: Hinted to be a Class X, though we never find out what caused it.
  • The Ark
  • Arm Cannon: Bower's Stun Gun is a slip-on glove; according to the Word of God this was so the character could use his hands for all the physical activity required.
  • Artificial Gravity: The Elysium has this, given how nothing is floating in a ship that's about to run out of fuel. Also, because it would be considerably difficult for the horde of cannibals to set up Vietnam War-esque traps. It's actually crash landed.
  • Ax-Crazy: Gallo decends into this as a result of developing Pandorum. As it happens, that was the reason the crew cycle got screwed up to begin with, causing all of the other problems in the film.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Manh speaks entirely in unsubtitled Vietnamese, and none of the characters are able to understand him. Nadia occasionally slips into similarly untranslated German.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Humanity survives but they have to rebuilt society from scratch with a population of 1,213, Tanis might become overpopulated like Earth, and Bower has Pandorum.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: Hunter's have a culture similar to that of savage tribes in reality where they favor conflict and cannibalism. This culture was founded by Gallo and their ancestors to combat overpopulation.
  • Blood Knight: The insane passengers on-board the Eylsium would fight each other to the death and feed on the fallen as part of a "nasty game" and their descendants (the hunters) continued practicing this. They watch one of their own fight the trio to the death and feed on its corpse after they kill it. And again, when Manh and the hunter leader fight one on one, he tosses Manh's spear back to him.
  • Face Your Fears: Bower conquers his claustrophobia by the end of the film.
  • Ceiling Cling: Manh does this after the power is restored and the lights come on, forcing him to be more inventive in how he hides.
  • Cannibal Clan: Some passengers had caught Space Madness and turned into cannibals.
  • Cannibal Larder: The Hunters' lair is full of half-eaten body parts, including scraps of skin that the human hero drapes over himself to disguise his scent.
  • Cannibal Tribe: The Hunters continuing what Gallo started with their ancestors as a cultural norm.
  • Central Theme: According to the director, survival is a major theme in the film. That each character represents how civilized they are and how much they are about survival. The film basically shows how egoism and altruism effects survival.
  • Claustrophobia: The film creates an atmosphere of it.
  • Countdown Sequence: And rather absurdly precise after such a long time.
  • Covers Always Lie:
    • From the back of the DVD case: "It's pitch black on an abandoned ship 500 miles from the Earth". This is untrue. It's not spoiling anything to say that, believe it or not, but it is a bit of a head-scratcher as to why they printed that as the first line on the back of the DVD cover. It also said this in the trailers.
    • One alternate cover shows a man's face crammed full of tubing. We never see this happen, although the tubing is present. It's the life-support system in a hypersleep pod.
  • Crapsack World:
    • From what little viewers see of Earth in the flashbacks, it's clear that all was not well.
    • The ship as well, which is referred to as a "world". The only way to survive in it is to be without mercy.
  • Death by Irony:
    • Payton has just given a Motive Rant full of crazy, and is trying to generate a Face-Heel Turn via Breaking Speech. When he succeeds in goading his victim into firing off a wild shot, it cracks the glass and drowns him.
    • Manh gets killed by the Hunter kid they didn't kill when they had the chance.
  • Death of a Thousand Cuts: Nadia, Mahn and Bower manage to take down a hunter by stabbing and slashing at it repeatedly for some time.
  • Earth All Along: The ship was on Tanis the whole time, and hasn't been floating in space in centuries.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: Elysium receives a radio transmission saying that They are all that is left of humanity and their scans showed the entire planet has disappeared.
  • Escape Pod: The Cryotubes are designed to serve as this in a secondary role. It is stated to be tantamount to suicide in deep space, however, given that there is nobody to pick them up, nowhere for them to land, and they can only power themselves for a few days at most.
  • Explosive Instrumentation: Towards the end of the film.
  • Eye Scream: Leland gets a hypodermic through the eye.
  • Fore Shadowing: There is water seen dripping from the ceilings and algae covering the ship saying that it's underwater.
    • Nadia says that the ship was build to out last their children's children's. Which fore shadows that the creatures are the descendants of the crew and not the crew itself.
  • Gaia's Lament: The exposition at the beginning indicates that the battle over Earth's resources reached a fever pitch before the Elysium was launched. In one of Corporal Bower's flashbacks, we see him wearing a Plexiglas visor and a head-wrap to shield from a sand storm just a stone's throw away from the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.
  • Generation Ship: the Elysium, though not by design. The Hunters are descendants of awakened passengers who embraced a cannibalistic lifestyle due to Pandorum and Gallo's influence.
  • Genre Savvy: Every one of the characters has apparently at least seen a few horror movies before.
  • Ghost Ship: almost everyone on board is a Human Popsicle. Except for the Space Mutants.
  • God Is Dead: When Bower confronts Payton/Gallo, he asserts that God died along with the rest of humanity, and that there is nobody left to judge their actions as the concepts of right and wrong and good and evil have ceased to exist.
  • Happy Flashback: Bower remembers being interested in the flight since he was a child and memories of his wife, serving as part of his inspiration to fix everything and save her. Until he remembers that she left him back on Earth. She was never on the ship, meaning she vanished with the planet.
  • Heroic Sacrifice - Manh draws the Hunters away to give Bower and Nadia a chance to restart the reactor.
  • Human Popsicle: Literally, as they're eaten.
  • I'm a Humanitarian:
    • The crew on the Elysium who caught Pandorum and their evolved descendants.
    • Payton/Gallo is in the original script.
  • Irony:
    • The fact that after destroying our own planet through pollution, deforestation and disregard, they start 'Year One' on Tanis by dumping an entire spaceship complete with massive nuclear reactor into the pure untouched ocean.
    • Nadia called the ship "Noah's ark," then the ship turns out to be in the ocean and the deck is flooded with water. This leads to humanity starting anew, like the story.
  • It's Up to You: the other 59,000 colonists were unable to stop the ship's deterioration.
    • Most died years ago, or woke up hundreds of years ago and their feral great-grandchildren are troglodytic cannibals. A few thousand are still frozen in cryosleep. Maybe a dozen or so at any one time are also wandering the massive ship, completely unaware of what's going on. Its a big ship. And only the flight crew has access to restricted areas. Bower has security clearance for areas Nadia couldn't get into.
  • Jigsaw Puzzle Plot: This film confused many viewers and likely on purpose. The film leaves out a some crucial details that the audience is left to fill in.
    • This critique actually puts all the pieces together.
  • Jitter Cam: The fight scenes seem to be a bit over-edited in some parts.
  • Just in Time: To fix the reactor. Down to the second, almost.
  • Knife Nut: Nadia mugs people at knife point.
  • Late to the Tragedy / Slept Through the Apocalypse - Bower and most everyone we meet is up for this, Leland is the only character we meet who has been awake long enough to have pieced together a reasonable idea of what happened.
  • Legacy Character: According to the writer, Leland was not the one who built the nest and carved down the fate of the crew but woke up much later and merely inherited it from the earlier survivors.
  • Lock and Load Montage: Bower loading up with radio and glowsticks before trying an Air-Vent Passageway escape.
  • Made of Iron:
    • Bower repeatedly falls from various heights onto hard surfaces.
    • Not to mention the neo-morlocks.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Gallo had psychologically manipulated other passengers and crew members into being cannibals and tries this with Bower near the end of the film.
  • Meaningful Name: Pandorum = Paranoia+Delirium, along with being a likely nod to Pandora's Box.
    • Tanis (Elysium's destination) was said to be the resting place of the Ark of the Covenant.
    • Elysium, of course, is a nod to the Greek concept of an afterlife reserved for relatives of the Gods, heroes, and others chosen by the Gods. Gets a Lampshade Hanging during one of the flashbacks, with an advertisement declaring that "Elysium needs heroes!"
    • Eden, a space ship named for the Garden of Eden. Her crew is cast out (into space) when one of her crew goes insane and purges the cryopods.
  • Misanthrope Supreme: Gallo rants about how the aspects of human civilization such as law, order, morality are petty concepts which led to overpopulation. That they should create a new world to replace humanity with the ship in a natural state, which is an obvious reference to the tribal Hunters.
  • Mission Control - Payton, using the radio and his hand-cranked control panel to help Bower on his mission to restart the reactor. Naturally, this leads directly into Mission Control Is Off Its Meds when Payton succumbs to Pandorum.
  • Monumental Damage - One of the flashbacks on Earth is set in the vicinity of Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, having apparently been turned into a decaying slum.
  • The Morlocks: Like the morlocks the Hunters are cannibals who are troglofaunal and the descendants of humans. But their bizarre biology is attributed to an enzyme the crew was given to speed up evolution so their bodies would adapt to Tanis quicker. So unlike the morlocks the crew's descendants adapted to the conditions on the ship after nearly a millennium(923 years), instead of of underground after several millennium.
  • Mythology Gag: The rotten corpse Bower runs into belonged to a guy named Cooper.
  • Never Give the Captain a Straight Answer: In the climax, the protagonist asks where they are, to which the antagonist says "See for yourself." and opens a viewing portal.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailers say that they are 500 million miles way from Earth but in the actual film they are way further. They also show Bower's wife on the ship.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero - A version that actually ends up working out for the protagonists. At the end of the movie, Bower is deep in a Pandorum-induced hallucination involving mutants climbing into the bridge through the ducts. This is while Nadia and Payton/Gallo are fighting, so he's pointing his weapon at the walls instead of Gallo. In the end, he shoots what turns out to be a circuitry access panel, causing it to fly off and strike the windshield. Since the ship is underwater, the pressure breaks the chipped windshield, causing water to come flooding in. This activates an evacuation of all the surviving hypersleep tubes and results in the drowning of Gallo and the mutants.
  • Noodle Incident - We never find out how Earth was destroyed, only that they had time to send a message informing the active crew of the Elysium that they were all that remained of humanity.
  • No OSHA Compliance: Played with. The vehicle is surprisingly structurally secure given all the things it's been through. It doesn't however have good signage, and no clear routes between important areas of the spaceship - such as the flight deck and the reactor core.
    • Also the Escape Pods being ejected into space by a single crewmember, instead of a system (as in nuclear launch silos) where two people have to work in conjunction.
  • No Name Given: Antje Traue, Cung Le, and Eddie Rouse's characters. The credits reveal their names to be Nadia, Mahn, and Leland.
  • No Range Like Point-Blank Range: The 'non-lethal' aspect of the riot gun only applies if you fire it from a reasonable distance away. If you shoot too close, things get a little messy.
  • Ontological Mystery: Bower and Payton wake up with amnesia, and must use deduction to figure out who they are and what's going on. The investigation continues after their memories return as they try to determine just what happened to the ship and its crew.
  • Or Was It a Dream?: Was it all in Payton and Bower's heads, hallucinations brought on by the onset of Pandorum? How can you ever be sure, when you're dealing with a particularly nasty brand of cabin fever that distorts your perception of reality and brings on paranoid delusions?
  • Plummet Perspective: Bower dropping a glowstick down the vertical shaft.
  • Pretend We're Dead: Bower wraps himself in peeled-off skin so his smell won't give him away when crawling across the sleeping mutants.
  • Ragnarok-Proofing: Justified as the ship is designed to "outlast our children's children" (a spacecraft would be a useful asset for a struggling colony, if only as a means of power generation). As normal batteries would have died over the years the creators went to some trouble to portray alternate power such as kinetic batteries and hand-cranked generators (presumably made more efficient by future technology).
    Peyton: I guess the ship really could land itself!
  • Reality Has No Subtitles: Manh speaks entirely in unsubtitled Vietnamese and heavy pantomime. The few times Nadia speaks German, it's left to the audience to figure out what she's saying.
  • Red Herring: Gallo and Payton's scene is making the viewer think the ship is in space when it really isn't.
    Gallo: The stars all look alike.
  • Religious and Mythological Theme Naming: Elysium—the resting place of heroes—was the part of the underworld for heroes where the memories of their "earthly lives" were erased so that souls could be reincarnated. The characters on board the ship, Elysium, can't remember their lives on Earth and are even referred to as "heroes."
  • Room Full of Crazy: Leland's nest, and also alluded to in Payton's hallucinations. Leland's nest itself isn't particularly crazy in itself, so much as the "cave paintings" on the walls (stated by the director to have been made hundreds of years before Leland stumbled onto it) accurately represent horrifying secrets of what really happened on the ship. Gallo driving the passengers insane and converting them into savage cannibals.
  • Rope Bridge: The rickety platform leading to the reactor.
  • Running Gag: Bower seems to fall out of something about every few minutes.
  • Running on All Fours: The creatures infesting the ship can do this for extra speed.
  • Satan: Who Gallo seems to be a metaphor of based on his negative views of God and morality. Also, there is Leland's statement.
    Leland: He was both God and the Devil!
  • Scannable Man: Done realistically. The computer checks their palm print, while simultaneously reading the numbers tattooed on the left arm to confirm they're allowed to access those particular systems.
  • Self-Destruct Mechanism: The reactor has no safe shutdown mode... of course the first thing it'd do would be to shut off the life support systems.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Bower and Gallo have an argument about civilization vs savagery.
  • Sleeper Ship: The Elysium. The passengers and most of the crew are kept in stasis in the cryopods, with the crew waking up in shifts to operate the ship. At least, that was the plan.
  • The Social Darwinist: Gallo believes that literal dog eat dog tactics would prevent overpopulation from happening again.
    Gallo: They fucked up our planet! Life eats life!
  • Space Madness: The titular Pandorum, stated to be due to a combination of paranoia, emotional stress, and the physiological stresses of deep-space travel.
  • The Stars Are Going Out: The characters wake up from suspended animation to find their sleeper ship has been drifting through space for an untold number of centuries. The villain takes the protagonists to the bridge and shows them that there are no more stars, reasoning that they have been asleep so long that the ship either drifted beyond the edge of the known universe or that all the stars have burned out. Actually, they had crashed on the planet they were headed for and were merely at the bottom of an ocean.
  • Starship Luxurious: Justified Trope as Elysium is designed to carry 60,000 colonists, plus a hold filled with pre-fab living units and a genetic bank of plants and animals.
  • Stun Gun: Except at point-blank range which makes Your Head Asplode. The currently popular Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better trope is averted despite the "corridors and bulkheads" look of the movie — Bower's 'non-lethal riot-gun' fires an energy burst powerful enough to hurl bodies backward.
  • Stupid Evil: Very narrowly avoided by Leland, who, having to choose between evil and survival, chooses the latter.
    Leland: You know, a strange thing, survival instinct... I mean, there's nothing really left to live for.
  • Survival Horror: The film references just about every trope in the genre.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Payton and Gallo are the same person.
  • Tomato Surprise: The Elysium has been on Tanis all along - having crash-landed into the ocean.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Surprisingly averted throughout the film. The survivors don't split up to investigate strange noises, and when Bower, Nadia and Manh manage to take down one of the mutants, they don't lean in closer so it can open its eyes and jump at them - they immediately stab it about twenty more times. Then they spot the Hunter leader calling for reinforcements... but in another aversion, Bower simply says "We should run" before they all book it.
    • Mahn not killing the kid as soon as he saw it probably counts...
  • Transhuman Aliens: The 'aliens' turn out to be the descendants of crazed cannibalistic crew and colonists who'd been given a genetic drug to enable them to rapidly evolve to conditions on Tanis. Instead they evolved to adapt to the savage conditions on the ship.
  • Unreliable Expositor: Gallo, read the red herring trope posted.
    • There is also Nadia who thinks that the creatures are crew/passengers who have transformed, but that just doesn't add up for a couple of reasons and Bower calls out the first one: 1)None of them are affected and Leland has been awake for years. Later it's revealed that Gallo has been awake for decades unchanged. 2) Over 900 years had went by since Gallo had awaken the crew, meaning that them being the crew is impossible. This says that Nadia does not remember much about how the enzyme was supposed to worked due her amnesia.
  • The Unsolved Mystery: What happened to Earth is never answered and parts of the Hunter's origins is never given a straight answer.

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alternative title(s): Pandorum
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