Pandemonium, Quite literally, it is the place of all demons. Milton tells us, it is also “the High Capital, of Satan and his Peers”, built by the fallen angels at the suggestion of Mammon.

-John Martin, Satan Presiding at the Infernal Council, c. 1823–1827


Pandorum, the 2009 film of the same name tells us, isn’t the name of the ship, as I originally thought, but a condition of the mind. Like cabin fever, except that there never will be a Spring again, when you can leave the cabin. It’s a special sort of cabin fever when your mind snaps from the endlessness of deep space. It’s a name purposely designed to elicit images of Pandemonium, and watching the film, and it doesn’t take long before the demons

Pandorum takes place in a ship called Elysium, about which little time is spent pondering this more pleasant and hopeful connotation. Elysium was launched from Earth at a moment when overpopulation has bled the planet dry and there was no hope but to turn out an ark to the stars. We later learn that Earth had an even tidier ending in a way that we know nothing about other than it left someone just long enough to send a message to say that they’re all head now.

But, we don’t know any of this in the beginning. We’re told the story through the eyes of one Corporal Bower, who wakes up from a ‘sleep’ with no memory of his past, putting him on perfectly even ground with us.


Finding no one aboard save one other ‘sleeping’ crew member, Bower wakes up his mate and the two of them labor to figure out where and when they are. This makes up the bulk of the film, which is an action-packed wild ride as Bower meets his co-stars, Nadia, played by Antje Traue and Mahn, played by Cung Le.
Let me take an aside to say that Cung Le looks just enough like another actor, Bolo Yeung, who played a character named Chung Li (!!) opposite Jean-Claude Van Damme in Bloodsport to have me taking a triple take.

Looking at these photos, I think, “Maybe not.” But I’ll attribute it to the name thing rather than the fact that physically, they’re commonality is pretty much limited to them both being Asian martial artists.

Each of these two is introduced as they take their respective shots at killing Bower while he tries to persuade them that they should all be friends. Luckily, he’s persuasive enough to escape before they demonstrate that they’re both far tougher than he is and could take him out anytime they wanted.
Around the buddy-flick elements and building sexual tension (no one talks about it, but it’s there) we see that the film isn’t called Pandorum for nothing. It’s completely infested with humanoid demons who are basically hunting the protagonists for food from now on.
Just as everyone agrees to be friends and find the reactor core that can give the ship back its full power, we’re introduced to a strange, old black man who outlines the all the parts of the story that would take too long to play out otherwise in a fully realized mythos, complete with tribal etchings to give the story a context that lines up with the facts on the ground. There’s a long bit about how the shit hit the fan when one of the early crew members heard the message from Earth and decided to kill everyone. In a parallel telling, we learn that the crewmember who set this thing in motion was named Corporal Gallo. It’s possible that these two stories might be some kind of foreshadowing, but I guess we’ll never know!

We’re also told that the demons of pandorum are demons of our own making, resulting from a design tailored to accelerate mutation so that the new world colonists can rapidly adapt to their new planet. It sounds good, but accelerated mutation on this planet is exactly why no one wants to live new Chernobyl anymore and people are always raising money for the Susan G. Komen foundation. Nature may have already figured this one out and it’s something that no one with even the most elementary understanding of the mechanics of evolution would ever consider a reasonable option. So, this is a plot point we just have to accept and not think too hard about.

The reactor is started, all the demons chase the heroes the entire length of the pointlessly vast spaceship.
Lieutenant Payton gets into a high-stakes fight with Corporal Gallo back in the command center which resolves when we find out that Lieutenant Payton, is actually the psychotic, Corporal Gallo, the central figure from the mythos we just learned.

Just then, Nadia and Bower rush into the bridge for the final reveal, that (11th hour spoiler alert), they’ve been on Tanis the whole time. This is all too much for Gallo, who despite the tranquilizer he just administered himself, turns aggressively against his reunited shipmates and we all succumb to trope for a final Bossfight between Payton/Gallow and Team Nadia-Bower.

Nadia, who, just an hour earlier, was a take-no-prisoners-badass, is now reduced to a damsel in distress, completely unable to handle herself against the suddenly overwhelming strength of Gallo.

The Bossfight culminates in a ricocheting shard or metal striking the glass windows of the deep space vessel and resulting in a hull breach that floods the ship and kills Gallo and all the scary monsters in one swoop.

Escape pod to the surface, and the two survivors are a modern-day Adam and Eve, forgiven their sins and allowed back to Eden. But that lasts less than a minute as we and the writers simultaneously realize that we’re one short generation time to full on incest and we’re saved from the idea as hundreds of other escape pods burst onto the water’s surface and Eden becomes the town of Edenville, population: just enough that we don’t think about incest anymore and the film that threatened a horrible conclusion now gets a completely unpredictable happy ending.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s