Invisible aliens star in an invisible plot
I just reviewed Ben-Hur, which I learned during my research was directed by the same director as one of the worst films I've reviewed in my career. This was also one of the few reviews that I really had a ball writing by inserting a touch more snarky humour. I thought you might enjoy this encore review of The Darkest Hour, which I wrote in 2012, and I've brought over from an old original film review blog of mine. This was published in US Suspense Magazine four years ago and, at the time, my editor wrote and asked in future to warn her if I was about to beat up a film as she ended up snorting her coffee out of her nose while reading this. Enjoy and leave a comment on the worst film you have seen?
'The Darkest Hour' should be renamed 'The Darkest 89 Minutes of Cinema'. After recently
watching one of the best sci-fi films of the past decade 'Attack the Block’, I believe there should be a moratorium on films involving aliens invading the planet. We have seen the best and we don’t need any more.
It seems every year we must endure one of these badly plotted, poorly scripted, lamely acted disappointments (warning adverb invasion). Last year at the same time we suffered 'Battle: Los Angeles' and already I’ve forgotten the story except for the image of Michelle Rodriguez toting a gun that looked too big for her. I pray that by this time next year the image of teenagers—in high heels—running through the deserted streets of Moscow with light bulbs strung around their necks, will also fade from memory.
Sean (Emile Hirsch) and Ben (Max Minghella) are in Moscow to close a phone app deal with investors. Not only does that go terribly wrong thanks to Skyler (Joel Kinnaman), but later that night their attempt at picking up Natalie (Olivia Thirlby) and Anne (Rachael Taylor) at a nightclub is rudely interrupted by ball-like lights descending from the sky. These turn out to be invisible aliens who within minutes begin disintegrating people leaving a trail of very messy dust.
Our four heroes—hear a mocking tone in those words—end up surviving by hiding in a cellar for four days, along with the arch business enemy Skyler. I pause here for a note to the scriptwriter, Jon Spaihts—if people hide in a room for four days, their hair will be messed, their clothes dirtied, men grow beards, and women tend to take their four inch high heels off.
When they finally emerge we are treated to a view of an unpopulated Moscow that is a little intriguing if we hadn’t become so worried that the film was already running amok. The aliens having totally devastated the city and incinerated everyone are now patrolling looking for survivors to crisp. At this point, the survivors decide they must get to the US embassy because, as we know, only the Americans can save the planet. Before travelling there, they decide the most important thing is to stop at an empty shopping mall and, wait for it…get new clothes—yes, there is such a thing now as “Invasion Fashion”.
It’s in the mall where they analyse the aliens and deduce that they can see living things by their electrical impulses and, also, that the aliens light up electrical appliances when they pass. So, they all don light bulbs as early warning alarms against alien drop-in. Throughout the balance of the film there is much light bulb throwing. And I fear that, as much as the producers will protest, some light bulbs may have been harmed during the filming.
The film travels on from one ridiculous idea to the next; an electrician who has created an apartment sized Faraday cage in four days; a mob of Russians riding horses and toting guns that don’t kill the aliens yet the Russians are still alive; a submarine waiting in the river for the only survivors—our heroes; microwave guns built in hours; and don’t get me started on women running around in high heels and perfect hair.
Whether the careers of these promising young actors are also harmed by first time Director Chris Gorak’s and producer Timur Bekmambetov lack of any sense of creativity or logic is something that remains to be seen. As this film will no doubt only last a few weeks on screens the actors probably thought that most people won’t see it and they may as well take the pay cheque.
Normally in reviews my policy is to give away very little of the plot. However, in this review for the sake of your hip pocket, I would like to share the whole plot. They get away—fortunately the better acted characters survive (thank you Aliens for taking out the bad actors first). In the end, they work out how to kill the aliens and you do see the little critters—think some kind of rough sketch of a spider that the special effects department forgot to run through their CGI machine. Most of the other plot highlights I have already revealed earlier.
I do this dear filmgoer because I know you will see the trailers and think, ‘That looks really good,’ and you may say to yourself, ‘How bad can it be?’ It is so bad you will want your money back.
You see the marketing department is tricking you with the trailer. They know you will think all those disjointed images that don’t have much story are like that because they are edited from the movie and that the movie will explain everything. Let me enlighten you with my light bulb preview knowledge, those good bits they show you make more sense than the movie and at least they are all over in a few minutes.
So, get your popcorn and coke, and watch the YouTube trailer and then use your saved eighty-nine minutes productively. Go to bed and read ‘War of the Worlds’. Oh and send the twenty dollars you’ve saved to Jon Spaihts the writer because he needs to go to scriptwriting school.