If not for the fact that it hit theaters worldwide roughly around the same time, 'The Darkest Hour' could very easily be mistaken as a ridiculously high-budgeted flick on the Syfy Channel. And in that respect, it could be celebrated as "a great, thoroughly entertaining piece of sci-fi action," the best the cable network has produced in years, with the coolest CGI effects seen in like forever! You know, because standards for TV movies aren't exactly as high as the stuff we expect to see on the silver screen. However, somehow this alien-invasion thriller did in fact open in cinemas
The only real selling point in this production from Chris Gorak, making his second movie as director after years of working as art director and production designer on other major films, is that it features the likes of Emile Hirsch. But sadly, since his small stint on 'Milk' back in 2008, he's done nothing of significant note, or at least not anything to sustain audience recognition. In fact, if this were a movie event of the week on the Syfy Channel, given his current trajectory, it would be none too surprising to see his name attached. His dull and mediocre performance in this snooze-fest is about as interesting and noteworthy as the character-less invisible orbs destroying the planet.
At least he's not alone, he's joined by a trio of equally dreary and superficial characters who are only as unique as their ability to express fear. Max Minghella, son of the Oscar-winning director Anthony Minghella, wins the useless golden goose egg for showing the least fear of the entire group, or showing pretty much no emotional response whatsoever for that matter. Olivia Thirlby's purpose in the movie is a complete mystery, aside from the blandly predictable love-interest. Rachael Taylor is the closest we come to a real person, but much of that is due to her accent. There's also some Swedish fifth-wheel (Joel Kinnaman) we'll simply call "Whiskers," because apparently only idiot, back-stabbers still rock the totally-awesome moustache.
Frequently, in many sci-fi stories, the plot almost always originates from some rather cool and intriguing idea, but its evolution and execution tends to ruin it into silly nonsense. In this script, written by Jon Spaihts, who co-wrote the screenplay for Ridley Scott's upcoming 'Alien' entry, 'Prometheus,' that cool idea is the invisible orbs, especially in the first few minutes of the invasion. Aside from the characters, direction and the rest of the story, any promise of an exciting movie is further ruined by the same played out, hackneyed, and stale device found in almost every alien-invasion film; it's always about the natural resources. More than anything else, this type of thinking reveals our blind, misguided arrogance as a species. Of all the planets in the whole universe, how self-important must you be to think ours is the only one with the minerals and metals which can actually be found in abundance everywhere in outer space?
The movie is based on a story Spaihts and two others developed, and seeing as how his name is also attached to Scott's return to science-fiction, a bit of apprehension and worry is now starting to grow. 'The Darkest Hour' is not only unimpressive as Spaihts' debut as a genre writer, but there's also little which indicates the promise of something greater down the line — except for maybe the whole invisible orbs thing. Perhaps now is the perfect time to look into getting some gigs on the Syfy Channel. And hey, you never know, maybe he'll bump into Emile Hirsch and Chris Gorak while he's there; they could join forces to work on the sequel for the network's 'Alien Tornado.'
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Summit Entertainment releases 'The Darkest Hour' to 3D Blu-ray as a single combo disc which also contains a 2D version of the movie. The Region A locked, BD50 disc is inside a blue eco-cutout case and a glossy slipcover with embossed lettering and accents. A series of 2D trailers kicks things off before switching over to the standard main menu selection with full-motion clips and music.
'The Darkest Hour' makes its way to 3D Blu-ray with a strong and mostly satisfying MVC-encode, but it doesn't quite deliver the wow factor expected of the format.
Generally speaking, the picture comes with several amazing scenes of depth, where buildings in the far distance penetrate deep into the screen and provide a great sense of expansiveness. Shot natively in 3D, the presentation is nicely layered with excellent separation of various objects. It's consistent even in the many nighttime sequences, although some shots are more impressive than others, such as when the group enters what appears to be a shopping mall. The illusion of actors moving within a three-dimensional space is quite convincing. The movie also lacks the usual pop-out gimmicks, which isn't a big deal, but the overall quality of the video simply doesn't feel all that immersive.
In spite of the darkened glasses, the transfer is very bright with spot-on contrast and brilliant, crisp whites, making the smallest details clearly perceptible. While not the sharpest presentation around, given it was filmed on digital HD cameras, definition and clarity are quite good with much of the Moscow locales to see. Sadly, aliasing and moiré effects do rear their ugly heads in a couple scenes, but can be easily missed unless you're looking for it. There's also some slight ringing around a few objects due to the high contrast levels. On the plus side, however, blacks are mostly luxurious and rich with lush, penetrating shadows, adding to the dimensionality of the image. Colors are bold and terrifically well-saturated, providing this release with a generally satisfying 3D presentation.
The sci-fi, alien-invasion flick debuts with a much more impressive audio presentation, making excellent use of the surrounds to engage its viewers. Much of its success comes from the interesting and very unique musical score of Tyler Bates, consistently bleeding into the rears and enveloping listeners with his weirdly haunting sounds. Atmospherics are also employed with clean, discrete directionality, and action scenes enhance the soundfield with various noises of debris flying all around the room.
Through all this, the DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack maintains a superbly clean mid-range, delivering a variety of effects and movement with precision while maintaining Bates' music sharply detailed. The low-end doesn't quite reach the depths expected of the action, especially the electrical pulses, but there's a great deal of power and authority within the bass nonetheless to keep things amusing. Channel separation is very well-balanced and convincing, and dialogue is precise and intelligible amid the loud action.
The 3D Blu-ray edition carries over the same set of bonus material found on the 2D and DVD versions of the movie.
To be perfectly frank, 'The Darkest Hour' is ultimately little more than what's typically expected of the Syfy Channel. The script comes with an intriguing concept at its heart, but the production dwindles down to a cheap, B-quality sci-fi disaster thriller with a weak storyline, terribly dull characters and a ridiculously stupid conclusion. The 3D Blu-ray comes with a very good video transfer, even though it has some minor problematic issues, and a highly enjoyable audio presentation. The rest of the package comes with a feeble collection of supplements, making it a forgettable release unless you genuinely enjoyed the movie. A rental at best.