Director/Screenplay – Tom Paton, Producers – George Burt & Evangelo Kioussis, Photography – George Burt & Martyna Knitter, Music – Chris Garvey, Stavros Orfanos, The Prototypes & Max Sweiry, Visual Effects Supervisor – Reece Sanders, Makeup Effects – Melissa Rose Bourne, Art Direction – Amie English. Production Company – Mirror Productions/The Film Label/Tpak Productions.
Jade-Fenix Hobday (Eiren), Marc Zammit (Ares), Adam Bond (Thade), Luke D’Silva (Nus), Laura Marie Howard (Flinn), Bentley Kalu (9), Amed Hashimi (6), Adam Ford (3)
It is many generations after civilisation has been destroyed. The Varosh are one among the various tribes that live in isolation. As part of the tribe’s rituals, three selected people – the orphan girl Eiren, the hot-headed Ares, and Thade – join the leader Nus to spend a night in the forest. They will face many challenges but only one of them will survive and return to be the new leader. This becomes a vicious and heated contest amongst the group to complete the challenges. In the midst of this, they encounter a girl Flinn fleeing from pursuers with a metal box. The girl reveals that the box contains an object – a gun – that is greatly sought among her tribe with the possessor being regarded as the leader and a god. As the group debate about whether to aid Flinn or take the gun, her pursuers return.
Pandorica was the debut of British director Tom Paton. Paton has since remained with genre material, directing the likes of the vampire film Redwood (2017), Black Site (2018) wherein soldiers encounter aliens, the timeloop film Stairs/The Ascent: Black Ops (2019) and the space opera G-Loc (2020).
For some reason, in watching Pandorica, I kept thinking back to tv’s Doctor Who (1963-89, 2005– ), which features a prison called Pandorica and a Time Lord Citadel known as The Panopticon. Frustratingly, the term ‘pandorica’ is never explained or even used anywhere throughout the film.
The setting of many years after the holocaust has reduced civilisation to rubble is a familiar one in science-fiction (usually in an action setting). Pandorica at least does something different with it that holds the interest – the world exists in terms of pre-industrial tribes and the story concerns a group of youths who are taken into the woods over a single night on a rite of passage from which only one of them will return to be the leader.
You also have to complement the film during the opening scenes where we see that Tom Paton has created an argot for the future, making this one of the few science-fiction films to realise that people of the future would evolve in the way they speak rather than simply talk the same way that everybody today does.
The quest plot with challenges that dig into the character of the various candidates and the in-fighting amongst the group holds the interest for some way in. There comes a fine twist with the introduction of a girl (Laura Marie Howard) being hunted by a group of others for the box she holds that contains an object that makes the possessor a god-like being, which is then opened to reveal a handgun.
On the other hand, Pandorica never sustains interest to the end. Part of the problem I think is that what enervates the film is an unusual idea and setting but in terms of drama it never fully builds on that by adding any twists or surprises, just goes with more fighting among the group and pursuing factions. It eventually reaches a lot of running around the woods and then an end.