(Lights out for the future franchise of) The Darkest Hour Review

The Darkest Hour Review
By Bret Dorman

Franchises are a big deal in Movieland. Finding a good franchise is like watching a clown pull out an endless handkerchief, the entertainment never stops. Plus you get lots of money! The more movies in the franchise the more money you get! The Darkest Hour has no kid appeal, no personality, and a limited possibility of a sequel. It’s a franchise without a future.

The Story: Sean and Ben (Emile Hirsch and Max Minghella) are super nerdy internet entrepreneurs/super cool club scouts! Natalie and Anne (Olivia Thirlby and Rachel Taylor) are BFFs from different countries/super cool club hoppers! Skyler (Joel Kinnaman) is a meanie doodoo head internet entrepreneuring thief/super cool club goer! They all talk, flirt, giggle, cry, and shout to or at each other throughout. Also, invisible aliens do… stuff.

There is a moment right at the beginning of The Darkest Hour where Sean flirts with a stewardess then playfully argues with Ben. They are such good friends! And he is so smooth with the ladies! The scene works on a conceptual level, but has no life to it, it just tries to do what it knows it should be doing. Then… out of nowhere… the plane goes through crazy turbulence. It’s neither exciting nor thrilling but the characters tell me it is. This lackluster opening carries on throughout the movie. Lack of chemistry and being told the action is exciting.

Much like Green Lantern, this movie has a general vibe of incompleteness. There is no connective tissue inbetween scenes and characters sloppily move from one subject to another. Even the witty banter is dull. At one point a character uses “Shark Week” as an answer to why he knows something about something. Really? Shark Week as a nerdy science punchline? Well, perhaps once we get some alien action the movie will pick up? Unfortunately, it doesn’t. In fact, it only gets more frustrating. There’s even a weird moment where the alien energy wave-ball disintegrates its first person and it causes everyone to scream. One person blandly semi-shouts out “Russia…” like this was a typical event in the country. “What did you do on vacation?” “Well, we saw the Kremlin, St. Petersburg Museum, rode the Trans-Siberian Railroad, and fought off some invisible aliens.” (shakes head) “Russia…”

Which brings up the whole ‘Russian’ angle. There’s no point. No reason why the main characters have to be American in Russia. Maybe we are just supposed to think that because the movie takes place in Russia it’s different? In fact, most of the Russians seem pretty lame. A lot of the generals or bodyguards look like tourists.

It’s safe to say not everyone makes it to the end. But since the characters spend most of their time arguing with each other for several minutes only to cave in and do whatever Sean thinks should be done whether or not it makes sense we really don’t spend any time caring about them, just wondering how it is they made it as far as they did. The deaths a supposed to be impactful, but instead it’s just one less person to weigh the group down. In fact, one characters death near the end is completely avoidable because they tell another to not move while she stands behind a pillar, then goes out of their way to save her and dies for it. Idiot.

The coolest part is that idea of a group of rebels fighting off a superior race with a bunch of scrappy technology. I really like some aspects of the movie and some minor details scattered throughout, especially with the Russian soldiers (a vest made of keys). The movie has a few good ideas. Instead of following through on them we get a bunch of people who have no real survivor traits other than they are the main characters being told how to survive and them ding a pretty crappy job at it and getting most everyone around them killed. Instead of making our main heroes American morons, why not make them a bunch of sarcastic Russian tech wizards who have to get from Point A to Point B (the end goal being something that results in a personal and emotional satisfying ending) and along the way discover how to take down the aliens? The version we get is our characters bumbling their way to something that may be able to get them somewhere else that by the time they get there the people they care about may be dead. In the end the characters only accomplish killing an alien or two using someone else’s technology/ideas, getting a text, and not finding out anything about what the aliens want. The last lines of the movie though? “This is how it starts. This is how we fight back!” Yeah… one look at the box office returns on this movie and it’s easy to see the franchise is going to end there, with the aliens draining Earth of its resources and our characters in a boat feigning excitement over figuring out nothing about how to actually save the world.

In Conclusion, it’s easy to see why most franchises are aimed at kids. Kids are pretty stupid. They’ll go see just about anything. And they’ll go see several incarnations of it. They’ll keep pumping money into it. They’ll even buy toys, lunch boxes, trading cars, pajamas, and stickers to brag to their friends who then go out and buy the same thing. I don’t see anyone rushing out to buy a The Darkest Hour action figure. Unless of course all my friends already have the invisible alien one and they just aren’t telling me… out of shame.

Final Grade: D-

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