NOTE: You can find the trailer at the bottom of this posting.
Pandorica is a 2016 post-apocalyptic film written and directed by the debuting Tom Paton. Shot with an estimated budget of £75,000, it would be fair to say that, when viewing Pandorica, you are not going to be watching a major Hollywood Blockbuster. While the big studios can rely on name talent to help drive a film forward and garner some strong hype, the key to making a lower budget film such as this work is to make the absolute most of what you have. Judging by the interview that forms part of the Blu-ray extras, this is something that Tom is well aware of. In fact, he is very clear in his support of Indie Filmmaking and how important it is to push forward with your vision while utilising the raw talent that is out there. He is also very open about how large a gulf there now is in terms of budgets available for indie films and mainstream cinema. Of course, understanding such things does not necessarily equal successfully applying the principals to your own work. Thankfully, Tom applies his understanding perfectly with this endeavour.
Pandorica takes place in a future where the world has technologically speaking been sent back to the dark ages, much as happened at the end of Escape from L.A. In this world, the Varosha Tribe have adapted to their environment and formed their own rituals and traditions. One such tradition is that with every new generation, the current Tribe Leader will take the three most promising members of Varosha’s youth into the forest to undergo a trial. Upon completion of said trial, one of the three hopefuls is selected to take over as the new leader. And so, we join this generation’s prospects, Ares, Eiren, and Thade as they begin their journey to leadership.
One of the first things you notice with Pandorica is that it is visually quite stunning. The natural wonders of the forest setting are beautifully shot and this helps create a real sense of wonder in relation to the world that the characters inhabit. The leads themselves all wear a mix of fairly simple yet functional clothing (which both makes sense in the setting) and some tribal face paint. What is nice to see here is that not only are each character’s facial markings different from one another, none of them are overdone. The designs are kept as simple as the clothing, yet succeed in being both interesting and distinctive.
The antagonists of the piece scream ‘Predator’ to me in more ways than one. The most obvious similarity are the masks that they wear: their designs sit comfortably between the aforementioned alien hunters and the tribal masks that you can see in museums across the world. In keeping with the ‘world reset’ motif, these are not made of an other-worldly alloy, but carved wood. Despite this, the designs are such that they still show a level of complexity that sets them apart from the three leads. To cement them as seemingly superior, they also wear armoured-look vests and appear to be larger in size than Ares and company. This again plays into the ‘Predator’ comparison nicely as the Predator has traditionally been both larger and more advanced than the heroes of the films, even when faced with the military personnel of the first film.
The soundtrack is another strong point that should be noted. There’s a fair degree of synth in play that should by rights clash with the old world setting, but manage to rise above this to create some nice atmospherics. The main audio track is mostly very clear, but suffers once or twice with being a little too low when characters are talking. This isn’t a major issue by any means (I only found my myself rewinding to hear some very short sentences), but it is a shame that the issue crept in. Of course, it could well just be my TV speakers.
In terms of performances, the cast do a decent job. In particular, Adam Bond (who has previously had small roles in Maleficent and Kick-Ass 2) really stands out as Thade. Marc Zammit can be commended for some apt facial expressions as Ares, and Jade Hobday does a god job as Eiren. At the villainous end of things, Bentley Kalu (whose credits include Avengers: Age of Ultron and Edge of Tomorrow) puts in a wonderfully maniacal turn as Nine and brings a beautifully unhinged feel to proceedings. As an interesting side with the casting, Nus (the current Tribe leader) is played by Luke D’Silva, who it seems also appeared as a performer on Devin Townsend’s ‘Retinal Circus’ show. Being a fan of said live performance, this was a cool little thing to discover.
The opening fight scene was short and looked a little sloppy to me, but I can concede that this could have been done by design to illustrate that the three leads are not yet the great leaders that the Varosha Tribe needs. Once the trial begins, the action improves for the most part with the masked antagonists adding a little more threat and some solid looking attacks. The problem for me was none of the three leadership hopefuls really shone as much as their foes, with Eiren in particular seemingly swinging wildly at times. Much as with the audio point that I mentioned earlier though, this is really a minor issue, and one that arises due to personal opinion rather than an actual fault. If nothing else, it could easily be taken to represent a degree of realism. After all, you don’t expect every person you encounter to be a martial artist, and I wouldn’t imagine that the first thing the survivors of the ‘reset’ do would be to set up or join a Kung Fu dojo. It just struck me that a leadership hopeful in a well-adapted surviving tribe should probably fight smoothly, and maybe utilise their surroundings to their maximum potential.
In closing, I say this: Pandorica has been getting a lot of praise from a great many sources, and I for one view it as well earned. The cast and crew really took advantage of the resources that they had available and as a result they have put together something memorable. With a run time of 82 minutes, it’s not over long, and it succeeds in filling those minutes without a wasted shot in sight. In all, Pandorica comes heartily recommended.
Final Score: 4 / 5