“Pandorum” certainly wants to be the sort of sci-fi/ horror film that will be remembered for decades to come by a cult following of horror nerds. Even at its most gruesome, it really wants to be liked, paying careful attention to plot and style and offering strange twists to keep the viewer from ever tuning out or dismissing it as “just another alien movie.” You get the feeling that the filmmakers ran the script through the revision ringer, constantly challenging every aspect, every scene, every character, in order to make it all as horror-nerd-friendly as possible.
But this was the reason that I never really loved “Pandorum.” It felt tortured. Yes, the filmmakers knew what they were doing, but it seemed like they cared more about the film’s cult legacy than they did about creating an interesting one-time viewing experience. It’s a movie that’s destined to live on the fanboy message boards, its particulars dissected ad nauseum. But because the premise involves a couple amnesiacs waking up on a ship, and because the filmmakers decided to constantly employ jerky jump-cuts intended to confuse and to give the impression of onset insanity, I never connected with the characters, and I sometimes wondered what was even happening. (This was the same problem, by the way, that plagued the final twenty minutes of “Sunshine,” another great sci-fi/ horror flick that is bound to be adored by fanboys, but that sacrifices substance for style and thus loses the viewer)
Is “Pandorum” lovingly crafted? Yes. Do the filmmakers really care a whole lot about giving you interesting visuals, and scary monsters? Definitely. This entire thing feels like “Event Horizon” meets “The Descent.” And both were scary, scary movies. But then again…in order to be scared, I have to care about the characters in the specific situations. That’s what separates “Gladiator” (where we cared about Russell Crowe) from “Troy” (which was more spectacular in its battle sequences, but gave us no one to care about when the thousands of soldiers charged at one another). I admire the effort here, but the final product feels well-meaning but ultimately unsatisfying.