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Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Darkest Hour (3D)

No really, just how mediocre can one film be?


Also at Channel24 in edited form


 What it's about

A group of young tourists find themselves on the run for their lives after Moscow is invaded by deadly, invisible aliens.

What we thought

The Darkest Hour: generic title, generic film. For a relatively major motion picture that has gotten some seriously bad reviews (16/100 on Metacritic, 12% on Rotten Tomatoes), I can almost guarantee that come December, absolutely no one is going to include the film in their “Worst of 2012” list. December is a long way away and there is simply no way in hell that any body is going to remember what genre of film The Darkest Hour belongs to, let alone what it was actually about. And this, oddly enough, is the very thing that saves it.

By sticking so close to formula and so indignantly refusing to so much as tip its hat to invention or originality, it never truly sinks below the baseline for this kind of film. Are its characters barely drawn? Yup. Does it have any twist in its tale that we don't see coming from a mile away? Obviously not. Is there anything at all unique or special about its aliens, its action set pieces or its directorial style? No, no and – aside for its use of Moscow as a setting rather than some major American metropolis – a million times no. Throw all of this together and The Darkest Hour should be a truly terrible film but, by aiming so low and by being so unassumingly irrelevant, it's hard to develop any truly strong antagonistic feelings towards it.

It is, in effect, the alien-invasion-flick equivalent of easy listening, elevator muzak. If you could actually find it within yourself to pay the blasted thing half a mind, you would be furious at just how little regard its makers have for providing something with actual creative or basic entertainment values, but it's simply impossible to care. It's the sort of film that should offer a free magazine for ever ticket sold just so you could have something to do in the cinema while it drones on and on in the background. On its own, it can, I suppose, simply be used as an undoubtedly effective mediation tool or a startlingly effective cure for chronic insomnia.

To truly see just how inoffensive the film is, one need only compare it with last year's similarly uninspired Battle: Los Angeles – never mind something as truly grizzly as Michael Bay's latest Transformers-sized headache. Battle: Los Angeles shared many the same shortcoming as The Darkest Hour – non-existent characterization, uninspired scripting and a barely there bare-bones plot – but it was just so very much worse. Battle: LA had the pacing of a steamroller, The Darkest Hour is paced like a stroll in the dark; Battle: LA was unbearably self-important, The Darkest Hour doesn't understand the meaning of the word “important”; Battle: LA is obnoxiously noisy, The Darkest Hour is something with which to put a baby to sleep. The Darkest Hour shows that “nothingness” is far more of a boon than anyone could ever have expected.

Best of all, because it has nothing, zero, nada, zilch, bupkis in the way of its own value, The Darkest Hour relies on previous films to elicit even the slightest involvement from its audience. Why bother to work on its own terms when it can instead have its audience thinking things along the lines of “hey those aliens are just like even more invisible Predators!” or “wow, the setting and characters makes this feel like Eurotrip with the instant disintegration of War of the Worlds!” or, best of all, “man, I really, really, really need to give Mars Attacks another shot!”. And, of course, lets not forget the actors who are basically there to remind you just how much you liked the likes of Juno, The Social Network and Milk and that Olivia Thirlby really ought to be in better films. It really is a masterclass in laziness.

The bottom line is this: no one in their right mind would ever recommend actively seeking out The Darkest Hour (certainly not in pointless and pricey 3D) but if you do happen to stumble upon it, you may find yourself pleasantly surprised by just how relaxing a viewing experience it somehow lands up being. Just don't expect to remember a thing about it – least of all its title - the very next day.


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