I’ve been looking forward to The Darkest Hour since the day it was announced, though I’ve intentionally avoided reading up on too many details concerning it. Until 24 hours ago, all I knew about it was that it was an alien invasion movie set in Moscow, starring Emile Hirsch and Olivia Thirlby and directed by Chris Gorak. The reason I’ve been so excited for it isn’t because I’m jonesing for yet another alien invasion movie or because I’m a die hard Hirsch fan, but because I’m a big, big fan of Gorak’s debut film, Right At Your Door, a low budget, but resourceful thriller about a dirty bomb that explodes in downtown LA.
Despite my curiosity, I even avoided reading any of the film’s Comic-Con coverage (though I did sneak a peak at some of the concept art). Then the official trailer hit and I just couldn’t resist watching it.
Now, it’s my most anticipated movie of the year. December 23rd can’t get here soon enough.
Why am I so excited? Because The Darkest Hour looks crazy. I don’t mean crazy as in so-awesome-it’s-insane, crazy as in a how-the-hell-did-this-movie-even-get-made? way. An alien invasion flick set in Moscow where the aliens are barely translucent floating balls of energy that come to Earth to absorb all of our electricity and whose biggest star is that guy from Speed Racer? What the hell kind of studio gives a green light to a movie like that? When did we get transported to another universe where distributors actually take risks on sci-fi projects?
The distributor in question is Summit Entertainment, the same company that put out Source Code, another bit of sci-fi that’s atypical for Hollywood, earlier this year. And while two sci-fi movies in the same calendar year is hardly a solid indicator of a trend, I’m thankful that Summit is becoming a big enough player in the studio/distribution market that they can take risks on superficially goofy projects like The Darkest Hour. When most studios hit it big with a franchise, they tend to stick with relatively safe projects in that same vein. Summit, on the other hand, has taken its vast supply of Twilight richesand decided to gamble on some cooler, smaller projects that few other studios in town would dare put their own money behind, and I think that’s pretty damned awesome.
Risk-taking distributor aside, The Darkest Hour just looks like a damned fun time. The film’s scope is far larger than I was expecting considering Gorak’s first film pretty much takes place within the confines of a single house. Judging from the trailer alone, Gorak seems perfectly at home with the larger budget and the bigger scale (his background in art and production design no doubt helped quite a bit). Even more impressive than the kick ass effects and eye catching production design (I’m a sucker for seeing highways and city centers complete abandoned, and damn does that plane crashed through the building look awesome), is the irrefutable fact that The Darkest Hour doesn’t look like any alien invasion movie ever made.
I’m a big fan of unique alien design and invasion motivation, so I’ve been bummed that the recent round of alien invasion movies all seem to have drawn their inspiration most heavily from video games (this year’s Battle: Los Angeles is the biggest culprit of this). It’s refreshing to see a movie where the aliens aren’t bipedal and they don’t fly around in massive ships. This kind of design just isn’t something you expect to see from a potential blockbuster. An episode of Futurama, sure, but definitely not a movie that’s opening Christmas week against The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and The Adventures of Tintin. That’s just…crazy.