Dir: Chris Gorak
By now you've probably heard of the irredeemable shittiness of The Darkest Hour; a 3D sci-fi thriller from the director of Right At Your Door, which was a solid piece of modern nuclear paranoia and promised better things than this for Chris Gorak's future. So, is it as awful as you've been told? Well... no, it's not, but it's pretty fucking close.
The story, such as it is sees internet entrepreneurs Emile Hirsch and Max Minghella arrive in Moscow, only to find that their idea has been stolen by an unscrupulous Swedish business man (Joel Kinnaman). Drowning their sorrows, Hirsch and Minghella meet tourists Olivia Thirlby and Rachael Taylor. As they party, mysterious lights arrive out of the sky, which turn out to be aliens. Most of the inhabitants of the city are killed, and this rag tag group find themselves on the run in a deserted Moscow.
It's not that The Darkest Hour doesn't have a decent premise, the problem is more that from the premise on down the whole thing is incredibly unoriginal. This is not so much a film as it is a mixtape; a grab bag of ideas from other, better, movies, jammed together in an asinine screenplay then shot in (pretty pointless) 3D in an effort to boost the box office numbers. There are shades here of War of the Worlds, 28 Days Later, and the less distinguished likes of Skyline and Tomorrow When the War Began (honestly, someone ripped off Tomorrow When the War Began... badly... that may be the saddest thing I've ever had to type). When the best you can of a film is 'at least it's slightly better than Skyline' you really have redefined damning with faint praise.
Despite a reasonably talented cast, the performances are terrible, Gorak has seemingly spent all his time on the 3D and the entirely bland and anonymous camera style, and left his actors to flounder with characters so thin they barely exist and dialogue so awkward and stilted you'd imagine it was lifted straight from a characterisation for dummies book. At a screenplay level the most frustrating thing is how fantastically stupid and inept these people are. Despite the entire city being destroyed and deserted, Hirsch decides to lead the group to the American embassy, even when it's pointed out to him that this is a stupid idea, as it will be in as bad a state as everything else in the city. However, the monopoly on idiocy is probably held by Olivia Thirlby's character, who, rather than swim for the safety of a submarine (that the characters are already aiming for) swims past it when aliens come close, then runs half a mile through an infested area and hides in a bus. We're meant to root for her safe return at this point, but any sensible viewer will think 'serve you right. Idiot'. They also manage to mess up everything. They group discovers two Russian survivors and, within hours of entering their (scientifically dubious) sanctuary, have destroyed it and got two people killed.
It's also worth noting that the idiocy is not confined to the characterisation. The difference between day and night is important here (because the invisible aliens set off electrical equipment, meaning the characters lightbulb warning system is only effective at night), so when, even though to any sighted layman, it looks like 10am or so on screen, someone says 'we have to hurry, the sun will be up soon', well, let's just say somewhere either a screenwriter or a director needs a harsh kick in the balls.
Ultimately though, while The Darkest Hour is egregiously stupid and inept, it's completely inoffensive. The actors are trying, they just don't have anything to work with (and the poor Russian cast members struggle valiantly with the English language) and while the 3D adds little it doesn't look all that terrible (that said, Gorak's composition is prone to flatness) and is technically average at worst. It's a waste of time, but I can't get cross about it, it went in one ear and out of the other, the time it takes to watch this film is approximately equal to the time it takes to forget it completely, so it shouldn't trouble you for long.
It's not good, and you shouldn't see it, but I'll be amazed if it's even in the conversation when we wrap up the worst of 2012.