How could a science fiction action movie that cost $30 million end up looking cheap, stupid and lifeless? To find out, see The Darkest Hour. The film, a sophomore feature by well-known art director Chris Gorak is no more compelling than a pile of bricks. The $30 million apparently has been spent on morphing electric-flash lights that fall from the sky and swallow humans. Mostly the film morphs into a block of idiocy.
As bad as it gets, which is pretty awful, at least you can say that The Darkest Hour isn't pretentious. Why it has released worldwide in 3D rather than going direct-to-tv is its only mystery. The plot is the usual waffle - aliens attack the Earth. To its credit, the film starts out well enough. It opens in Moscow instead of in New York, has two moments of thrills and humor, and sets up the premise without insulting our intelligence too much. Unfortunately it soon resorts to visual aids, eschewing fun in favor of lame one-liners and cheesy Adobe After Effects. As the aliens arrive, people start dying in ludicrous and unintentionally comical ways. We don’t care. We don’t give a damn about anyone in the movie. Let the whole planet die. The hell with it. We just want to go back home and have an aspirin.
The characters in The Darkest Hour are a recycled version of every alien invasion movie ever made. Being Russian is no substitute for acting. The usually likable Emile Hirch and Max Minghella deliver performances that are one-dimensional even by the undemanding standards of the genre. The sultry Olivia Thirlby and Rachael Taylor hang around between Hirsch and Minghella’s characters, mouthing some of the most clichéd lines written for an action movie in several years. The aliens, who can be rendered on a Pentium 3 computer, are as frightening as Kestho Mukherjee in a mock angry mood, and just as ridiculous. I hoped the movie would salvage some dignity by killing all the heroes off. That would’ve earned some respect. Sadly Deus Ex makes an appearance - you know how it goes. The last two leads are trapped somewhere, facing aliens and certain death. And then someone gives that ‘hey presto brilliant idea that could work’ look.
But to Beelzebub with the characters and the story, who was the scientific advisor on The Darkest Hour? Vishwa Bandhu Gupta? Besides the aliens’ electromagnetic circuitry, not one premise in this movie is the least bit digestible. I can suspend my disbelief for all kinds of codswallop. But a homemade microwave gun that can quash an entire alien army that traveled eons to get to earth? I’m no scientist, but I am prepared to endorse unabridged BS only if you dress it up intelligently enough.
The Darkest Hour has a slight edge over other bad sci fi films - it is so ineptly directed that it becomes mildly fun to watch after a couple of pegs. The choicest moment is when one of the leads makes plans to counter the aliens, and another interrupts saying ‘Be careful! They are out here!’, as if no one knows that there are that extraterrestrial beings killing humans out on the streets. Needless to say, The Darkest Hour is the nadir of sci fi filmmaking. They definitely don't come any worse than this.
First published in Mid Day