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The Fashionably Late Review: Zombieland and Pandorum

October 11, 2011

(Ed. note: The Fashionably Late Review is a critique of a film released in the last two years — with spoilers, so it can be appropriately reviewed in its entirety. So be warned. If you really wanted to see the following film, you’d have seen it by now.)

The two movies in question have no real connection to each other except that I watched them both in the same week.  However, one of them embraces a central idea and hits the bullseye; the other, unfortunately, tries to hit every sub-genre target and misses overall.

Zombieland starts off with the best opening credit sequence (slightly NSFW) since, perhaps, Jackass: The Movie (also slightly NSFW).  (If you scoff at J:TM, then I ask you this: how is it not funny when grown men race down a street in and on a gigantic grocery cart being bombarded by blasts of rubble while “O Fortuna” guides them to their fate?)  The bar is set so high in the first two minutes that the viewer wonders if the movie can live up to the credits.  It does.  Zombieland wants to be a horror-comedy, and makes sure that it nails both.  Jesse Eisenberg anchors the film as the beta-male straight man to Woody Harrelson’s gloriously over-the-top zombie-hunter.  Bill Murray’s quick entry and exit should serve as a template for cameos for this genre.  Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin play their con-men supporting parts well, though they exist mainly to infuse more quippy dialog.  In fact, one of the few criticisms I have is that some of the script—but thankfully not much—veers into Diablo Cody/Kevin Smith too-contrived territory.  Even the done-to-death Rules for Survival are enjoyable due to their clever Scott Pilgrim-style inclusion in some of the actual scene graphics.   (To be fair to Stone’s character, whom I kind of dismissed earlier, she does warm to Eisenberg and get him to finally “nut up” and break one of his own inviolable rules).  Zombieland also includes enough action and gore to satisfy the casual zombie-flick fan, with even an “oh-no!” moment near the end when it looks like Tallahassee (Harrelson) might not come out of this thing alive.  Overall, Zombieland is a worthy successor to Scream and Shaun of the Dead, all of which succeeded in both horror and comedy, and even romance/bromance (some would even argue that SOTD was at its heart several love stories).

Pandorum, on the other hand, was a schizophrenic mess.  Whether it was the writers or director or producers or some of each or nobody in particular, this movie just couldn’t decide what it wanted to be.  A doomed human race trying to save itself by finding another home?  Battlestar Galactica and Titan A.E.  Crazy captain of marooned/almost-alive space ship that seems to be screwing with its crew? Event Horizon.  Hardy and motley band of survivors handy with blades and outfitted with sleeveless shirts and bustiers?  Pretty much all the Mad Max movies.  Extremely fast, well-adapted, super-deadly creatures aboard?  Alien.  Finding out that the creatures are actually mutated (or evolved!) humans?  Doom.  Hell, maybe even the Reavers from SerenityPandorum simply tries to do too much.  It injects too many genre cliches and introduces too many twists, some of which are obvious, some of which couldn’t ever make sense until they’re explained in too-convenient exposition scenes, and maybe two of which are kinda cool (the last scene being one).  As a fan of all those genres and subgenres and subsubgenres, I wanted to like this movie.  It actually started out pretty well, but unraveled after about 25 minutes and barely kept me until the end.

Verdict: 1) Watch it. 2) Skip it.

  1. permalink
    December 14, 2011 7:46 am

    Pandorum was all about the term “Suvival of the fittest” in all it’s forms. I knew exactly what it wanted to be. Google “Allegory of Pandorum” for detail.

  2. permalink
    December 14, 2011 7:54 am

    Btw, they were not mutated humans they were devolved descents of them. – Morlocks from the Time Machine ;)

    Secondly, the guy wasn’t screwing with the passengers. He ruled them and they did what ever he said because they were crazy just like them.

    Also, Titan AE and Alien are not original themes…

  3. permalink
    December 14, 2011 7:56 am

    Also the ship was not the “alive”. I think you seriously misunderstood the basic plot.

  4. permalink
    December 14, 2011 7:59 am

    Sorry about this but I also like to add that he was’t a captain.

    Sorry for all the post.

    • Matt Shorr permalink*
      December 14, 2011 9:05 pm

      Even though it seems you and I disagree on certain aspects of the movie, I welcome your comments. I’d like to clarify a few things you brought up:

      1. Nadia mentions that the ship’s original inhabitants were given evolutionary accelerants to allow them to adapt quickly to the new planet, but instead they adapted to the ship (which makes sense because they had been there for some time). We can quibble over whether they evolved or devolved–they seem rather fit for their environment–but either way, evolution is mutation.

      2. From my post: “Crazy captain of marooned/almost-alive space ship that seems to be screwing with its crew?” My intent was to say that the ship itself, not the captain, “seemed” (operative word, chosen deliberately) to be screwing with its inhabitants. The structure of my sentence makes the meaning ambiguous, though.

      3. Titan AE and Alien were certainly not original themes, and I didn’t mean to imply that. However, they came well before Pandorum, and I mentioned them and the others to illustrate that all Pandorum’s themes have been explored before and (in my opinion) better.

      4. The ship is certainly not “alive” in an organic sense. This was more to describe its erratic behavior, and how that behavior tended constantly to vary in ways and at times extremely inconvenient for the protagonists (hey, a plot’s gotta progress somehow). Also, Bower, Leland, and Payton all frequently use anthropomorphic language to describe the ship. My turn of phrase was not meant to be taken literally, which is why I said “almost-alive.” This was more to compare this element of the movie to Event Horizon, in which Sam Neill’s character states that the ship IS alive.

      5. You’re right: Payton was a lieutenant. I used “captain” colloquially to refer to the person in charge of a ship (nautical or space), not as an actual military rank. And though technically Payton wasn’t the “captain,” he was the most senior officer awake/alive, and thus assumed a ship captain’s duties.

      Believe me, I wanted to like Pandorum and I actually completely understand its appeal. I’ve had good discussions with fellow authors on this site, as well as my dad, about the movie’s merits and demerits. I just wish it would have been more tightly written and that it hadn’t tried to do so much. And again, I do appreciate your comments. These interactions are a big part of what makes writing this stuff so much fun.

  5. DevilMayhem666 permalink
    December 19, 2011 8:13 am

    While, Evolution is change over generations with benefits while mutation is sudden and can be damaging.


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