In the last few months I've seen the bottom of the 2011 release barrel slowly lurch onto my DVD player. Some of the choices are obvious, like the thoroughly reprehensible Human Centipede 2, and others are simply misguided bores, such as The Iron Lady. Still, try as I might, I get a certain amount of schadenfreude pumping into my heart when I watch a film as inept as The Darkest Hour.
It's science-fiction pitched at the lowest possible level, telling the flimsy story of an interstellar species who land on Earth to devour our sweet flesh. "They have a plan" we're assured in tight close-up, but this seems at odds with their tendency to meander around like cows. So a race of interstellar, energy-based manatees comes colliding into the worst foursome of characters I've encountered in some time.
Stupid is a good start for this crew, also selfish, egomaniacal, and lacking the most basic instinct for self-preservation commonly found in lemmings. When the triumphant music comes piping into your speakers you may come to the sad realization I did. Evolution has been stalled to the point that this is what gets to survive.
The foursome includes two software engineers (Emile Hirsch and Max Minghella) and two party girls (Olivia Thirlby and Rachael Taylor) sampling their latest social network offering. After being rebuffed by their former partner (Joel Kinnaman, who is the only performer to leave an impression), they all have a quick introduction to each other at a bar before they're a merry crew running for their lives from the beings that fell from the sky. Then begins a seemingly endless shots of the five (then back to four) making their way through Moscow.
They quickly discover the aliens, normally invisible to the naked eye, can only be seen through electric appliances and lights. This provides the first clear sign of non-intelligent life on display when they decide to wear bulbs around their necks as an early warning sign. A poor choice considering the aliens have yards long tendrils and before they adopt this fashion choice they find the bulbs only activate within a few feet of the creatures.
No matter, eventually they find the spiritual succesor of Tesla hiding out in an apartment where he just so happens to have the gun that will kill the aliens. This is a standard turn from the insulting trope of the magical negro and finds Americans, once again, make a foreign "other" the wonderful solution to all the bland leads' problems (for a far more popular example, see the chemist in Inception). The problems don't extend just to the treatment of foreigners, but the women who might as well have "I exist to be in trouble" bolded under their appearances. It gives so little regard to them as people that when tragedy befalls the blonde tough she is replaced not five minutes later with another blonde and near-identical personality.
Then a horse appeared in armor along with a Mad Max styled team of Russian toughs complete with yet another Darwinian quandry of a team member who wears headphones into battle. The conclusion I reached was solidified long before this idiotic sight, but this is one of those films which is so completely inept it became clear director Chris Gorak was just throwing whatever the hell up on the screen he felt like having. Sense be damned, the Russian toughs will wear chain-link armor and strap spray paint to their chests.
This being science fiction the allegory can go from hamfisted to quietly integrated. Since we've got the technology of the west encroaching on Russia just as an entire species of energy beings is descending on a slowly commodified region, I'm going to go with the Oliver Stone shade of subtlety.
The Darkest Hour could have been the kind of cheesy fun I like to throw myself into sometimes but is so bad on all levels it just becomes a film too inert to make jokes at. The much-maligned Jonah Hex is a film I'll still defend because it's goofy and plays with the visuals and story quite a lot. If your cinematic choices come up to horse gatling-guns versus armor the answer lies in propulsion, a driving force to move on to the next scene. At least in that case the equine armament made some kind of sense.