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By Rachel Morgan | April 6, 2005

The future is a scary place; forget pollution or the threat of bio-terrorism, my latest fear, thanks to “Pandora Machine”, is bad computer graphics and excruciatingly slow moving credits. “Pandora Machine” is a sluggish sci-fi feature that revolves around the police force of the future; an industry that has become privatized and relies on Orwellian surveillance mechanisms to monitor and control citizens. Armed with high-tech devices such as laser pointers (yes the kind that you can buy at the “super center” of your choice), detectives Michael Kelly (Daryl Boling) and Jane Sikorski (Doris Hicks) attempt to track down a pernicious android, but in the process discover that their biggest problem may lie elsewhere. Or at least that’s what I could ascertain; the film is a little confusing and I found my mind wandering quite a bit.

Most of the scenes (the ones that feature actors) are set in simplistic environments that seem homemade, but are intercut with much more interesting shots of industrial exteriors, subway stations and the like. It’s a shame the film couldn’t make further use of the more appealing locales (or similar) as the majority of the story plays out on sets that seem a bit unauthentic, especially in comparison to the other featured locations. Also frequently referenced is what looks to be a psychedelic screen saver (the one with the dancing colorful laser beam streaks), this unfortunate device is unnecessary and does nothing but degrade the film. There’s also a good bit of cheesy gore and nudity (I just caught the attention of a few dozen fourteen-year-old science fair winners, as if the mention of androids wasn’t enough).

My favorite thing about “Pandora Machine” was the relief that I felt when I discovered that I hadn’t somehow acquired narcolepsy (or adult attention deficit disorder); it was only the film. Perhaps I shouldn’t be so harsh, the picture does have some value and if you like dialogue-driven science fiction and don’t mind distracting graphics, you may enjoy the movie. The acting is better than average and certain elements of the story are alarmingly relevant. Not to mention that Don Arrup (with the help of make-up artist Anthony Pepe) does an interesting Nosferatu impersonation. However, the film is most likely only appealing to hardcore sci-fi fans; for anyone else it is a bit hard to swallow (the movie is packed with lines like “we’re replacing the androids with neuros” and “she is enough biomech that she should be able to transmit data”). Director Andrew Bellware is an experienced sound engineer and has also directed “Apostasy” (1998) and “Hamlet, Prince of Denmark” (1997) which is a 92-minute adaptation of the play by Shakespeare that was shot entirely on Pixelvision.

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