Guess what everyone? It’s April Fool’s day! Many of you may think we’re reviewing Darkest Hour starring Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill, but that’s far from the truth. Oh no, this movie is a really weird sci-fi film that features aliens that look like beams of light or energy as they try to…I guess take over the world? All I know is this movie was advertised a crap ton back in 2011, though it still generated really poor ticket sales. Yikes.
In Moscow, a few Americans are hanging around a nightclub, when aliens arrive. The aliens, who are never named, attack, killing many in their wake. Now in a foreign country with no visible way out, the four Americans along with one Swedish guy now must survive the invasion. I would add more to the synopsis, but there’s really not much else to say.
Before we get to the analysis of the film, let’s talk about one glaring issue: the movie poster. Seriously, I had no idea what was going on when looking at this thing. It looks like a bunch of generic young adults not even really running away from what looks like Darth Nihilus’s force drain from Knights of The Old Republic II. Hell, the guy in the very front doesn’t even seem alarmed that this light alien is chasing them! And the rest of the group behind him are just looking behind them, as if they were patiently waiting for someone lagging behind to catch up to them.
First let’s mention some positives. The aliens themselves are an interesting and unique concept. They generate electricity and read human bioelectricity which results in an enemy that has a learning curve that has the potential to be engaging and can bring interesting solutions, like one minor character turning their home into a faraday cage. Second, the setting of Moscow is not seen in most alien invasion films allowing for a different perspective to be possible. Unfortunately, the film does nothing with either positive element and these elements feel like they could be used to make an interesting film that isn’t this one.
The characters themselves are atrocious. They are at best just generic cardboard cutouts that have no depth. The men never go beyond “smart best friend”, “impulsive lead” and “the jerk groupmate”, while our female leads never go beyond “love interest” and “mid-second act expendable best friend.” When characters start dying or are in danger, caring about them is something that never really crosses my mind. While the film was made to take place in Moscow for a Russian perspective, the American leads just run counter to that desire. The Russian characters could easily have had this film to themselves and we would all be better for it. They aren’t that much more interesting, but they would have brought something different to the table. Instead we follow some American idiots for an hour and a half.
Plot-wise, the film is uninspired. It follows a bunch of tropes for its whole runtime, from the one jerk side character to the reckless protagonist who is always right, to the aliens going after Earth’s resources, which could have been more thematically interesting given how resource rich Russia is, but it is only glossed over. The heroes are also just dumb, making questionable choices throughout. Why go aboveground without cover to reach the U.S. embassy, when the subway system would probably be safer and less traveled. Also why go to the embassy? It isn’t the worst place to go, but what would they have that you couldn’t get somewhere else. Radios could easily be found in any government building. It also seems they expected the embassy to hold out against the invisible aliens that can kill on touch and are shocked when the embassy is just as devastated as everywhere else. Did they think that the building would be a fortress that fended off the alien invasion alone while all of Moscow was slaughtered. Did they think that this only affected Russians and that the embassy could just send them home? And why did the female lead, when thrown off a boat when trying to reach a submarine, swim inland and hide in a bus, when she could have just swam to the submarine that was both in eyesight and less than a block away. Literally everyone else on the boat got to the sub except her. Then the film would have ended mercifully quicker.
All-in-all, this movie is flat out boring and uninspiring. The characters are very flat, and half the time are indistinguishable from each other, the aliens are so generic they don’t even have physical bodies, and the whole film tries to be like a post-apocalyptic disaster film, but fails miserably. What should have been a fun disaster movie is made unbearable due to having no originality or even an aspect that makes it slightly watchable. This film certainly was a dark hour, as it darkened my outlook on disaster and sci-fi films.
Co-Written by: Michael Li