Battle for Pandora is The Asylum’s mockbuster answer to Avatar: The Way of Water, although the trailer looked like it was as much inspired by James Cameron’s earlier film The Abyss, and perhaps inevitably given the two film’s similar effects, Terminator 2. It also looked a lot more interesting than anything to do with the Avatar franchise, although to be honest that really wouldn’t be too hard.
The Cassini 3 landed on Saturn’s moon Pandora and promptly stopped communicating with Earth. In response, a rescue mission led by Commander Hank Lewis (Tom Sizemore, Amber Road, Damon’s Revenge), is dispatched. On board is infectious disease specialist Dr. Jennifer Ryan (Natalie Storrs, The Secret Life of Carmen Lewis, Boner) and her husband Dr. Cliff Ryan (Mark Ricketson, Ratl Memory, The Forbidden Fruit). This complicates things because Jennifer and the Cassini’s captain Greg (Kristos Andrews, Survive the Game, Murder Anyone?) have a history.
Almost as soon as they land on the surprisingly Earth-like moon the Cassini 3 takes off on its own and a creature in the water attacks the team, a creature that actually looks like it’s made out of the water itself. Needless to say, this isn’t going to be as easy as they thought.
Director Noah Luke (Attack on Titan, Thor: God of Thunder) and one of the film’s writers, Joe Roche (4 Horsemen: Apocalypse, Meteor Moon) are Asylum veterans. The second writer, Rolfe Kanefsky (Night of the Tommyknockers, Art of the Dead) is a B movie staple whose career dates back to 1991 and There’s Nothing Out There. This is the first time I’ve seen his name on an Asylum film which I have to admit raised both my curiosity and my expectations.
Like most films from The Asylum, Battle for Pandora has a dialogue-heavy second act to keep the budget down. Thankfully the plot’s mix of themes from the Alien films as well as The Thing lends itself to drama as characters argue over letting potentially infected crew members back on board and how to detect who has actually been infected. It actually keeps things moving along and reasonably tense as our leads try to figure out who can be trusted.
When we do get effects, they tend to be better than usual with the spaceships and brief shots of ship-to-ship combat looking convincing. The water creature looks a bit off, but I think that was intentional, it was meant to make viewers think of The Abyss. And while those effects were state-of-the-art, that was thirty-three years ago. There are only a couple of truly bad effects in Battle for Pandora, but they are howlers, looking almost painted on the screen.
Sizemore, who sports a Mohawk which seems odd for a military type, has a fair bit of screen time although he doesn’t appear with other cast members, Even when they’re in the same room we don’t see them in the same shot. Despite not having a lot to do, the supporting cast comes off well, particularly the memorably named Plastic Martyr (Scumbag, Models Talk) as a badass female who should have gotten more screen time.
By the time it reaches a climax that involves a planet-sized creature and a nuke fired into a wormhole Battle for Pandora’s script may have stopped even pretending to make sense but it is solid B movie fun. I know that they’re trying to find another Sharknado, but The Asylum needs to lay off the intentionally stupid films like Shark Side of the Moon and make more solid low-budget films like this.
The Asylum has released The Battle for Pandora to Digital platforms.