The Darkest Hour review

Banana Rating: 1 out of 5

What is it about alien inva­sion movies? Like Al Pacino in The God­father Part 3, just when I think I’m out, they pull me back in. I want them to be good but they're usually rubbish. Enter The Darkest Hour. And yes, it's rubbish.

Prob­ably the last good alien inva­sion movie was Dis­trict 9 back in 2009. Although, is that more of an alien immig­ra­tion movie? I haven’t seen Battle:LA yet. I will, at some point, in spite of it’s ter­rible crit­ical recep­tion. I want to BELIEVE! I want to gaze at the screen in won­der as alien space­ships thun­der across our skies, remind­ing us all that our planet is an insig­ni­fic­ant little blue-green blob in a totally massive uni­verse. Like, totally.

Whilst the ali­ens are obvi­ously an import­ant part of this type of movie, it’s still us — humans — who are the main drivers of the story. We want to see how human­ity copes against the alien men­ace, to see human­ity on the brink, and then fight back. In The Darkest Hour we get a couple of inept web design­ers and a couple of party girls. Not people who you’d like to have watch­ing your back in an alien inva­sion. Still, the pos­sib­il­it­ies are there. They’re unlikely her­oes, and to see them grow and change in unex­pec­ted ways as they battle the ali­ens is bound to be inter­est­ing. Dis­ap­point­ingly, that growth amounts to get­ting hold of a cool gun and being a bit less of an asshole.

But like I said, the ali­ens mat­ter too. They have to be a cred­ible threat.

Invisible aliens

The Darkest Hour’s USP is that the ali­ens are… invis­ible. Straight away, I’m think­ing, “Oh right. Invis­ible. A handy way to save on budget costs.” That’s the cyn­ical side of me. But I’m will­ing to give any film the bene­fit of the doubt. Invis­ible ali­ens are quite intriquing, and in the hands of a good dir­ector, could truly be scary. How do you fight that which you can’t see?

Except they lied to us. The ali­ens aren’t really invis­ible. In fact, you see them quite a lot. They appear as golden knots of elec­tri­city at key moments, turn­ing people to dust with the slight­est touch. Or at least, when they can be bothered. Occa­sion­ally, the ali­ens just grab someone by the leg and throw them around a bit. Are they toy­ing with them? Or did they see the script before­hand, mak­ing a note of who the main char­ac­ters were, so as not to kill them instantly? It lessens their impact when they seem driven by the plot, rather than their own minds.

In another attempt to be at least bit dif­fer­ent, The Darkest Hour swaps the usual Amer­ican inva­sion site for Rus­sia. Moscow to be pre­cise. But the switch in loc­a­tion is largely point­less, with scenes tak­ing place in nightclubs, tube sta­tions, shop­ping centres, and aban­doned bus sta­tions. They might as well have stayed in the US, for all the dif­fer­ence it makes.

One for the sci-fi turd bucket

Wor­ry­ingly, the film seems to be set­ting itself up as some sort of fran­chise, one character’s final line being, “This is how it starts.” There’s barely enough mater­ial to fill it’s slim 89 minute run­ning time, let alone another couple of movies.

It reminded me of another sim­ilar fail­ure, Sky­line. Sur­pris­ingly, the budget for that movie is smal­ler than this one. It’s hard to see where the money went for The Darkest Hour. Cer­tainly not on the script and the no-name cast. The spe­cial FX don’t seem to war­rant a 30 mil­lion dol­lar price tag.

Like Sky­line, it’s one for the sci-fi turd bucket. Which, in case you’re won­der­ing, is just a nor­mal bucket, with “sci-fi” scrawled on it. And it’s full of turds, wel­com­ing one more cine­matic chocol­ate log with a big splat.