Pandorum posterCam Gigandet (did I stutter?) started out as a young hunk on the Young and the Restless, moved on to playing a young hunk on the OC, kicked off his movie career as young hunk James in Twilight, and now turns up as a young hunk with blindingly white teeth in Pandorum, a pleasingly second-rate sci fi action horror flick set far in the future when Earth has finally groaned and broken under the weight of all its pesky human inhabitants and one last, colossal spaceship has taken off with the last of the human race.

Yes this is also how Wall-E starts. But where Wall-E gave us a good 30 dialogue-free minutes on the desolation of a post-human Earth, this movie starts deep in the bowels of the de rigeur giant spaceship where everyone except rotating teams of flight crew are deep in “hypersleep”, waiting to touch down on a pre-identified Earth-like planet that lies several thousand light years away.

A member of the flight crew awakens fitfully, his memory a fog. He peers around. No lights. He snaps a glow-stick. A thick layer of dust covers the room. Suffice to say, he doesn’t yet know about the evil alien clowns aboard who can run like greased lightning and who like nothing better than snacking on fresh human.

And here Pandorum does a big belly-flop. These evil clowns are RUBBISH! Don’t bother sneaking up on anyone, fellas, we can tell you’re there by the slow-moving blue glow around the corner and the reverbed whooshes you make as you breathe. Don’t bother using your supposedly superhuman speed, our heroes will always outrun you. And hey, you – old survivor. The guy who slathers himself in engine oil to mask his smell? Yeah, you. Don’t bother. These aliens prove repeatedly incapable of sensing fresh, exposed man-skin just inches from their gaping noseholes.

I know, I know, who cares. But the whole fun of alien monsters is the steady sussing out of their strengths and weaknesses. If they can run 100 miles an hour, then running away from them should not be a good strategy.

But there’s a more fundamental problem with humans vs super-evolved enemies, a problem that better movies like Predator and Alien succeed at distracting us from. Basically, we should never win. We should just die. Because we are worse than they are at most of the things necessary to win in a fight. So for the sake of a happy ending we make our enemies super-evolved physically, but mentally sub-normal. (This goes back to the Jack Tales at least, the most famous of which is Jack and the Beanstalk. No physical match for the giants he meets, Jack always figures out some clever trick to either kill them or get away, or both.)

But this movie insists on humans beating aliums on their own terms – outfighting rather than out-thinking them – so we are treated to some very unconvincing victories. Which is why Pandorum missed its real calling: it should have been a video game. Video games don’t want – or even allow – you to think outside the game’s own rules in order to win – you just have to keep bashing away at a certain section until you finally do it well enough to pass. You die again and again, because you suck. And because you are not allowed to act in ways the game hasn’t anticipated.

There’s a ton of set pieces in Pandorum that would be terrific in a video game: the shonky bridge over a squirming moat of aliens; the escape from the locked room; three-way martial arts battles; cut-scene reminisces about life before the ship..

Anyway, eventually we find out that the evil clowns were once normal human passengers (aha!) who were woken from sleep early by a power-mad ship’s officer; the enzyme that has been added to their bodies to accelerate adaptation to the new planet they are to populate has instead started super-adapting to the ship itself. And perhaps the ship’s DVD collection.

The power-mad officer is played by the aforementioned Mr Gigandet (very nice with cassis I’m told) and he is utterly convincing as a whiny, narcissistic, smug little brat who I want to brain with a giant wrench.

It all gets very messy by the end of course but it always helps when your protagonist knows how to start the ship’s reactor in barely less time than is showing on the “everything explodes when this reaches 0:00” timer. He gets it right the first time – whew!