Review 42: The Darkest Hour (1/5)

The Darkest Hour

Directed by Chris Gorak

Starring Emile Hirsch, Olivia Thirlby, Max Minghella, Rachael Taylor, Joel Kinnaman, Veronika Varnadskaya

Released on December 22, 2011

Running time 1h 29m

Rated PG-13

Genre: Sci-fi, Disaster, Thriller

In this review, I will be comparing The Darkest Hour to two other alien invasion movies that came out the same year: Skyline (which I would give a 4/5) and Battle: Los Angeles (which I would give a 3.5/5). I actually enjoyed the two. Skyline for its suspense and cool-and-scary-looking aliens, and Battle: Los Angeles for its mindless, badass fun.

I’ll try to be concise with Skyline and Battle: Los Angeles, because this is a review of The Darkest Hour.

  • Skyline: A small group of Los Angeles citizens desperately try to hide in a penthouse apartment as an unstoppable extraterrestrial horde invades the earth over the course of three days. One by one the group is picked off. Why are the aliens here? It is revealed that each individual alien is powered by our brains. That is probably the most original idea I’ve ever seen in a movie like this. Alien ships “vacuum” up humans, and machines inside destroy the heads of humans, leaving only the blue-glowing brain. Only at the cliffhanger end does it look like the human race has even a small shred of hope.
  • Battle: Los Angeles: A horde of seemingly unstoppable aliens invades the earth from the sea. A small group of Army soldiers are stranded in overrun Los Angeles. They fight their way out, and along the way learn that the aliens are here for our water. The climax reveals that humanity actually has a legitimate fighting chance, and the still-intact U.S. military ends the movie on a cliffhanger, launching a massive assault on Los Angeles.
  • And then we have The Darkest Hour. Two American software designers (I think that’s what they are) travel to Moscow to…uh…something about a business deal. Of course, the deal goes sour, and the two Americans are left broke. They, oh how coincidentally, meet two American chicks at a bar. Yellow lights that look like auroras flash across the Moscow sky. Yellow spritz-sprite-thingy-balls fall from the sky and fade away, while everything electric dies. A policeman investigates where a ball was and is yanked into the now invisible ball and disintegrated. This causes the other balls to hunt and disintegrate other people. The now four Americans hide from the balls. The next morning, they go outside to see the streets of Moscow completely empty. They decide to go to the American Embassy, which they learn to their dismay is abandoned. They meet up with other survivors, learning that the aliens are surrounded by an electric ball-shaped force field, and that their only weakness is microwave emitters. They also learn that a nuclear submarine is waiting in the Moscow River to take survivors to safety. They make a break for it, meet up with other survivors, get to the sub, and end the movie on a hopeful cliffhanger. Just like Skyline and Battle: Los Angeles. Damn.

I thought I’d also complain about the aliens.

  • Skyline’s aliens were definitely the most original, innovative, and COOL out of these three movies. They were essentially made of organic tissue combined with mechanical stuff with a bunch of blue eyes or lights. I divided them into four classes: the mothership, the bigger ships and fighters, dropships, the behemoths or tanks, and the slug-beetle-centipede hybrid grunts. I can’t say anything about them except that they looked SO COOL! Clearly the budget was utilized well!
  • Battle: Los Angeles had three types of aliens: motherships, flying drones, and Terminator-esque grunts. They looked really cool, but less cool than Skyline. The budget was utilized slightly more to hire bigger name actors like Aaron Eckhart and Michelle Rodriguez, but the aliens were very well done.
  • And now we come to the cheap golden sprites in The Darkest Hour. They clearly have little to no budget dedicated to making the aliens actually look good. They clearly made the aliens invisible to save money rather than to be original. And The Darkest Hour had as much as ten to twenty million buck larger budget more than Skyline. And Skyline’s budget was between ten and twenty million dollars. To have that low of a budget and have that impressive of special effects is incredible. But seeing The Darkest Hour waste its thirty million dollar budget on filming in 3D in Russia. I may have seen The Darkest Hour in 2D, but I cannot tell how it could have been even slightly effective in 3D.

Wait, how’d I get from aliens to wasting the budget on 3D? Way to just ramble on into particular subjects.

One last thing: how’d they get Olivia Thirlby, who played Judge Anderson in the fantastic Dredd, to star in this train wreck?

I’ll shut up now.

Final verdict: 1 out of 5 stars.

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