Blu-ray Review The Darkest Hour
Directed by: Chris Gorak Cast: Emile Hirsch, Max Minghella, Olivia Thirlby, Rachael Taylor Running Time: 1 hr 38 mins Rating: PG-13 Due Out: April 10, 2012
PLOT: A group of Americans visiting Moscow try to survive a spontaneous attack on the world brought by cloudy electric aliens.
WHO'S IT FOR? Do you love science fiction movies? And by that I mean, you love them so much that you will see their (ahem) darkest days just as much as their brightest moments? This one might strike your fancy. If you're looking for an exciting movie of survival, you would probably be better off looking elsewhere. This one isn't bound to grip your attention anytime soon.
The Darkest Hour is a movie doomed by the mess it makes for itself in the plot synopsis available above. Typing it, I thought that one of the kids from Bully was going to storm into my apartment and slam my head against an imaginary bus seat. It's a laughable concept, and frankly an embarrassing one to tell your friends about (and I'm not even the guy who directed this movie).
Just as these floating electric smog clouds come randomly to earth, we rhetorically ask ourselves about this movie, "How did this happen?" Such an inquisition comes with the same reply and shrug of shoulders, usually the ones too shamed to look you in the eye: "I have no idea, but it happened. "
Maybe someone lost a bet, or there was a mutiny in the special effects department (as what should have happened with last month's Wrath of the Titans). Maybe the people who made this movie were actually attacked by electric cloud things in real life - that reason makes more sense than what could be the reason for such weird creatures in this film, that reason being "intentional." Either way, it's hard to imagine screenwriter Jon Spahits throwing this script down on a producer's desk, with the sentence "Little foggy balls of electricity come down from the sky" intact, and saying, "I'm done!" (It's even harder to imagine what someone actually said to Spahits along the line: "Okay, you can write Prometheus!")
These villains/creatures wouldn't even make it to the jaw-dropping dry erase board from The Cabin in the Woods (if you've seen that movie, you know what I'm talking about). They're only cool for how they disintegrate someone (but not before forcing them to do an abrupt version of "The Worm.") Especially when we see them in their full form, (looking like they were constructed on Windows 95 in 1996), this movie really, really pushes the audience's kindness to embracing the "different." Sure, it's a story of survival, and angry shoe aliens could one day come from the sky just as much as clouds of electricity, but ... seriously?
Oh right, there are human beings in the movie. The Darkest Hour is steered by a quartet of young men and women, some of them more recognizable than others. It is certainly a little peculiar to see Max Minghella after a serious turn in The Social Network, just as it is watching Emile Hirsch fail to make his cocky American character work when he has much more potential overall. Along with Olivia Thirlby, when you recognize the stars from this movie, you know that they can do better.
The journey that this quartet is taken on follows a pretty standard survival arc, down to the discovery of a wacky surviving scientist, and an order of death that never throws a curve at the audience. The Darkest Hour is already a strange and boring concept before the story enters the mess. Having a mediocre arc co-mingling with sinfully goofy villains is a disastrous recipe.
What The Darkest Hour does feature is some exceptional production assistant work. This might be the first time in my thousand and one years of writing film reviews that I've given any type of that praise, but for this movie, it is true. The completely vacated locations around Moscow can't totally be the works of movie magic, so I applaud the hard work it must have taken to make the city look like a bazillion people weren't walking around it everyday. If there's any type of factor that is simply cool to watch in The Darkest Hour, it's the small joy in watching a survival story where somewhere else other than New York city looks completely evacuated. Other than that, The Darkest Hour is dorkiest movie to get wide release in a long while.
MOVIE SCORE: 2/10
The Darkest Hour: Survivors (new short film) The Darkest Hour: Visualizing an Invasion Deleted and Extended Scenes Audio Commentary