3 Stars — Thought-provoking

In apocalyptic fiction, the end of the world often includes a remnant hope. Perhaps such a hope is included because we can’t imagine the total annihilation of humanity, regardless of the fact that in most such fiction it is our own behaviors that cause our destruction. Although this remnant hope comes in various forms, it usually rests on a representative pair who, like Adam and Eve, are going to repopulate the Earth. Christian Alvart’s film Pandorum expresses such a hope within a complex tale of science fiction.

Written by Travis Milloy, the premise is a familiar one: Humanity is out of control because of overpopulation and, in the not-too-distant future, is on the brink of self-destruction as everyone fights for resources to survive. In the midst of this anticipated extinction, a massive spaceship is created to take humans in a cryogenic state to a recently discovered planet that can sustain our life forms. However, getting to the new home requires a 123-year odyssey. The length of the journey sets the stage for a massive problem to occur brought about by the psychological illness of pandorum: a mythical disease of space travel.

Focusing primarily on the Adam character, Cpl. Bower (Ben Foster), our tale begins with his panicked awakening from cryogenic sleep. A member of the fifth flight team that is supposed to awaken and guide the ship to their new home, there are no officers of previous crews waiting for him. Confused because of the long sleep, Bower discovers that he is locked into a secondary command chamber with Lt. Payton (Dennis Quaid) still in hibernation. What happens then is a brutal and valiant battle to discover the truth about their journey, their predicament and their future. It is a well-told tale with expected science-fiction intrigue.

The less-developed Eve character is Nadia (Antje Traue). Nadia not only is set to become the mate for Bower, but she is also a Noah character who, as a biologist, has responsibility to protect the specimens being brought from Earth to repopulate their new world.

Violence and its ability to overwhelm our values is a central theme of the film, not only onboard ship but in the destruction of Earth. The “survival of the fittest” experience that destroys the Earth and has reproduced itself on the ship reveals itself to be a dehumanizing way of life. Living with love for one another and choosing to unite so that we may all survive is the underlying moral message as we see its antithesis being played out on screen. Perhaps it is the American-German production and its filming in Berlin that makes the story all the more powerful.

Like Pandora of Greek mythology who released human evil by opening the container that held them, one cannot help but wonder what this new planet will become with these fallen humans to populate it. Perhaps pandorum refers to a far greater malady of spiritual proportions we all need to consider.

Discussion:

» The mutated humans whose biological lives have evolved into blood-thirsty animals is given only a biological explanation. Do you believe humans would abandon their moral and spiritual abilities to love and care for one another and evolve into creatures like this? Why or why not?

» The fictional psychological condition of “pandorum” is similar to paranoid schizophrenia. Do you believe human beings will be able to solve the problems of lengthy space travel without creating physical and psychological diseases? Why?

» A good case can be made that human beings are overpopulating, and this is increasing our wars. Do you believe we will be able to stop this madness, or will this madness stop us?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com.