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.
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.
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.