Monday, November 28, 2011


The Darkest Hour is an alien invasion movie that follows two other alien invasion films released to theaters in the past year. Battle: Los Angeles was released March 11 this year and met with critical indifference and only moderate financial success (it grossed $85 million dollars and cost $70 million to make). Skyline was released on November 12, 2010 and met with critical loathing and financial failure (it grossed $21 million dollars and cost $10 million to make). I personally liked Battle: Los Angeles more than Skyline, but found things to like about both of them, while still finding them to be flawed.

The Darkest Hour is coming out with very little fanfare or “push” from its distributor Summit Entertainment, other than a modest trailer and TV advertisement campaign. Its estimated budget is $44 million dollars, so one would think to be financially successful it would have to make about twice that much domestically. The trailer shows high production value and emphasizes the attractive cast and extensive sci-fi special effects. Other than the fact that our cast of characters seem to become involved in some sort of alien resistance, little else of the plot is revealed.

This is only director Chris Gorak’s  second feature film. I haven’t seen his first film, the modestly budgeted 2006 thriller Right At Your Door, so I don’t have any idea what level of skill or sophistication that he might bring to this film. The screenplay is by Jon Spaihts, who has no other writing credits; but is listed as the writer of the screenplay for Ridley Scott’s upcoming science fiction film Prometheus, so we can hope that he is more than just competent.

The lead actor appears to be Emile Hirsch. The only film I’ve seen him in is Speed Racer, in which he played the title character and it certainly didn’t give him much of an opportunity to show his range as an actor. Rachael Taylor is apparently the female lead. The only film of hers I’ve seen is Transformers, in which she played one of the consulting computer geeks to the military. Her character, Maggie Madsen, seemed smart and quick witted, but she really didn’t have enough screen time to judge her as an actress. The rest of the “American” cast - Olivia Thirlby, Joel Kinnaman and Max Minghella – are all attractive young actors whose work I’ve never seen.

One thing The Darkest Hour has going for it is that it is set in and was entirely filmed in and around Moscow, Russia, which is still a location that most American audiences are not well familiar with. The set pieces – particularly the exterior shots – look outstanding, so this gives the film a “one up” on recent alien invasion films that have been very American-west-coast centric.

All of these unknowns do not bode well for The Darkest Hour being a great or even good film. Still, the trailer has a certain “gosh-wow” appeal and that just might be enough to get this sci-fi geek into the theater after the crazy that is Christmas. Watch the trailer for The Darkest Hour and judge for yourself! The Darkest Hour is being released to theaters December 23 2011.


  1. If you want to see Emil Hirsh showing his acting chops I recommend seeing either Lords of Dogtown (2005) and Into the Wild (2007), he does quite well in those. Actually just the other day I was commenting how underused he is, considering his such a good actor.

    This movie looks good, I love the sci-fi angle, at the very least, it will be a fast paced fx spectacle. Looking forward to it.

  2. Based on the number of movie reviews you post on your blog, Francisco, I suspect that you watch more films in a year than I do. This is why I will usually watch a poor genre (SF, Fantasy or Horror) film over any other genre of film, despite its quality. When I do watch non-genre films, it’s usually action films thrillers, or comedies. This would explain why I’ve missed Emil Hirsh in Lords of Dogtown and Into the Wild, because they are not only dramas, but they’re biographical or at least based on real people, which is probably my least favorite sub-genre of film. Still, it is good to know that Emil is able to play characters of real depth.

    I’m an eternal optimist when it comes to my favorite film genres. Still, while I enjoyed the visual effects of both Skyline and Battle: Los Angeles, I was disappointed by their lack of character depth and complex plot development. Hopefully, The Darkest Hour will be able to deliver empathetic and believable characters, as well as a sustained multifaceted plot throughout the film.

  3. Sadly, I have zero interest in this new film.

    In fact, it just looks like a special effect picture and I'm bored to tears by them of late.

    I do agree with Francisco about Hirsch. He's very good. In fact, The Emperor's CLub, a Kevin Kline vehicle, was a solid film which Hirsch also features.

    Doc, I thought all of your points were good ones and that scriptwriter one is a good observation. It should be better than good if he's doing Prometheus.

    I also like your point about location. It's always refreshing to see something filmed outside of NY or LA. Great point. We'll see. Maybe we'll hear back from you it's better than expected.


  4. I agree with you, Sci-Fi Fanatic, in that special effects driven films have run their course (for us old-timer SF fans at least) and that it takes at least some effort on the part of the screenwriter to create a film with a story that has at some depth to it to keep us invested in a science fiction movie. The level of writing has improved so much in the past decade for scripted television SF, that it almost seems that Hollywood has given up on story driven SF stories, in favor of expensive special effects driven ones. As the effects in TV genre programs continues to progress, I hope theatrical films will go back to writing better scripts.

    I started this TUESDAY TRAILER post because I was spending the time researching theatrical films that I was interested in seeing anyway, so these posts are just a way to share my process with the rest of blogger-dom. I like to support genre films by spending my time and money to see as many as I can at the theater. However, I hate wasting both on cinematic junk food. That’s why I spend as much time as I do researching films before going to the theater. Just doing a quick count, I’ve seen ten 2011 genre films at the theater and watched sixteen 2011 genre films at home on Netflix streaming or DVD/Blu-ray. By the end of the year and into early 2012, that total for the later will be even higher.

    Speaking of it being “refreshing to see something filmed outside of NY or LA” in genre films: I just watched the Russian film Black Lightning (Chernaya Molniya) – 2009, which is an odd blend of the superhero/sci-fi genres that was also shot entirely in and around Moscow. It certainly qualifies as cinematic junk food, but it is good family fun and worth checking out for the locations and exciting “flying car” effects.

    Thanks for checking in Sci-Fi Fanatic!
    Happy Holidays to you and your family!