In my 2011 Year in Review, I had a category called “Just For Me,” which included movies that I liked for no particular reason. As a matter of fact, they are movies that I wouldn’t even try to defend if someone said they were bad. I would simply nod and probably help them make their case. Most people would classify these movies as “entertaining,” which is code for “guilty pleasure.” What’s funny is that these same people mistake “entertaining” for “good” and will argue with you on the merits of the film, even when that film is something as crappy as G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. And, honestly, I’m okay with this, as long as they admit that it’s a guilty pleasure for them and not a movie that should ever be discussed intelligently at length. I’m no stranger to guilty pleasures - if it makes you feel better, I can’t stop watching Grey’s Anatomy even though it has no value whatsoever (please keep your ridicule to a minimum).
This brings us to our current topic, The Darkest Hour - the latest in a spat of alien invasion movies and my most recent “Just For Me” movie. As I’ve mentioned in past reviews, I’m a sucker for science fiction movies and I’ll give any alien invasion movie a chance. Luckily, this one doesn’t have a very high standard to meet, since it’s predecessors of the past year are Battle: Los Angeles, Cowboys and Aliens, and Skyline (in descending order from decent to putrid). I’d say The Darkest Hour fits just below Battle: LA, as the visuals weren’t quite as good, though only because there were far fewer than in Battle: LA.
As usual, the aliens are invading because they want Earth’s resources, in this case - the minerals. They fall to the ground as glowing orange lights, wink out of sight as they reach the ground, and start killing any humans they can find. At first, it seems as if they are killing the humans as a source of energy, sucking them into nothingness while leaving only a small cloud of dust behind. We learn later that this is a faulty assumption (thanks to the previews for planting it) and that they are simply killing the humans because they are a threat. We also learn that the aliens can only see electrical currents, including that flowing through humans. Conversely, the humans can only detect the aliens as they pass by something electrical, since that something lights up when the aliens are near. This is a great example of something I would normally harp on, since they don’t ever explain it even though it’s a major part of the film. Glass can block their sight and concentrated microwaves disrupt their shields. None of this makes any sense, but I chose to ignore it for my own sanity (and because it was Christmastime and I was feeling jolly).
Another great example of how this movie was less than Oscar-worthy is that it had no real plot. The setting is Russia, the characters are four young, attractive people (Emile Hirsch, Rachael Taylor, Max Minghella, and Olivia Thirlby), and the story is RUN!!! HIDE!!! RUN!!! I know this is the basic survival story and I have no problem with that, but the characters were so underdeveloped that it was hard to care about them surviving at all. In fact, you can be sure that not all of them will survive and the only one I care about is Rachael Taylor, due to the fact that she is a hot Australian chick with a hot Australian accent. To answer your question, yes, I did just say that.
The quartet, along with a fifth guy who is the token douche bag that always gloms onto our group even though everyone hates him, works their way through the city to try to meet up with other survivors in the hopes of escaping altogether. All of the basic elements show up at one point or another - from a group of soldiers who have set up their own base to the crazy old hermit who knows far too much about the visitors to the teenaged girl “who knows how to survive.” Even though all of these things are cliché and predictable, I still found myself not hating this movie. Maybe it was the low expectations or the actors performing adequately or the extreme sugar high from Chrustmas butterscotch fudge, but I never found myself picking at anything during or after the movie. It could also be that Skyline was such a piece of shit that anything in the same genre is automatically given a pass.
Maybe the real reason I didn’t think it sucked was because the movie doesn’t get lazy or contradictory. It may have a silly premise and nonsensical science, but they stick with until the end, which is more than I can say about a lot of other movies. One other note…please don’t get sucked into the argument of “why would aliens come to Earth for resources before harvesting the rest of the solar system?” As I’ve said many times, especially with sci-fi, you have to accept the premise and not worry about the plausibility. If you can do that, you will find yourself entertained by more movies than you think. Just don’t try to tell me how good they were.
Rating: I wouldn’t ask for any of MY money back. But then, you’re not me.