The Darkest Hour 3D / 2D (Blu-ray Review)

The electrifying science-fiction thriller The Darkest Hour arrives on 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray and DVD April 10th from Summit Entertainment. Emile Hirsch (Speed Racer, Into the Wild), Max Minghella (Ides of March, The Social Network) and Olivia Thirlby (TV’s “Bored to Death,” Dredd) star in this story of five young people who find themselves stranded in Moscow and fight to survive in the wake of a devastating alien attack.  With Moscow’s classic beauty as the backdrop, The Darkest Hour features some interesting special effects from the minds of visionary filmmakers Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted) and Chris Gorak (Fight Club, Minority Report).  The movie never lets up as the invaders begin their assault on Earth, targeting the planet’s power supply.


Director Chris Gorak delivers another “aliens attack without warning” movie which have been done so many times that at this point, if you’re going to make another, it should at least have something to set it apart.  Unfortunately, this movie fails to meet that goal.  Instead, we get paper thin characters and situations that have been recycled from better movies.  Not even the main characters are interesting enough to root for so all that’s left to appreciate is the special effects.  In this movie, the main protagonists are Sean (Emile Hirsch) and Ben (Max Minghella) who are two Americans that have traveled to Moscow to sell the idea for their club/party finder website.  Upon arriving to the big meeting, they realize the partner they’d been working with named Skyler (Joel Kinnaman) betrayed them and has cut them out of the deal.

Angry and disappointed, Sean and Ben decide to have a good time to forget their troubles so they go to a local club where they meet fellow travelers Natalie (Olivia Thirlby) and Anne (Rachael Taylor), who have also the website and blog to find the same club. The pairs hit it off and they start having a good time when the lights go out.  Everyone from the club heads to the street where they see some strange lights descending from the sky which is intriguing at first until an officer starts to investigate it when he is utterly disintegrated.  After witnessing that, everyone scatters as they run for their lives.  Sean, Ben, Natalie, Anne and Skyler end up taking refuge in the club where they remain locked in the storage room for days. The company could be better, since not only are Sean and Ben still pissed at Skyler, but Skyler has continued his selfish ways and sacrificed his date to save himself.

In the storage room, the five are overlooked by whatever is killing people outside, while everyone else dies.  Eventually the group runs out of food and decides they must leave the safety of their storage room.  Moscow appears completely deserted.  The strange lights seem to have killed everyone and the group decides to head for the U.S. Embassy.  Along the way they learn that the light bulbs will warn them that the invisible creatures are near and that they can be shielded behind glass.  Heading for the Embassy, one of their party is killed so the survivors head towards a nearby building that has some working electricity.  At the building they find a young woman Vika and an electrician Sergei.  They learn that there is a submarine in the Moscow river that they might be able to reach.

Luckily for them, Sergei has built a microwave device that is an effective weapon against the invaders which emboldens them enough to head for the submarine.  Of course, along the way more of them will die during their desperate escape attempt and it becomes a nice parlor game to guess which character will be the next to die.  In the end, they have to survive so they can share the knowledge of why the aliens have come and how to they have learned to harm them.  Only then, can they hope to find other survivors and take back their world.

I have really mixed feelings about The Darkest Hour.  I liked the idea of an invisible alien race coming to Earth, without warning and just attacking.  That’s a pretty terrifying idea.  I hate that so many alien movies assume that aliens would come to earth and want to talk about it.  It’s much more likely they’d just come without warning to harvest the planet and look at the human race as an annoyance to be exterminated.  So this movie started off with the right idea but then lost me by casting Joel Kinnaman, an actor that I can’t stand.  This movie changes nothing as Kinnaman’s accent drops in and out randomly throughout the film which drove me crazy.  Different leading men that could bring some charm and charisma to their roles would have also helped the movie.  Emile Hirsch is a fine actor but he just doesn’t have the kind of charisma that would have you sitting on the edge of your seat hoping he doesn’t get eaten by an alien.  He isn’t helped by the script either since the screenwriter somehow managed to both over-complicate and oversimplify the story to the point that I just didn’t care what happened to most of the characters by the end.

I believe the world should be separated into two groups – those who liked the movie Skyline and those who did not.  I love a good alien invasion movie and really looked forward to the release of Skyline and was incredibly disappointed.  There are people out there that vigorously defend Skyline for some reason and try to tell me it’s not actually as bad as I think it is.  Maybe its alien invasion movies in general that create such a division between people because I also hated District 9 more than almost any movie in history.  District 9 also has its die-hard fans (including my husband) and I think they are absolutely insane.  So I’m in the “hell no” column on both District 9 and Skyline and unfortunately The Darkest Hour joins their ranks.


2D Video  

3D Video  

While The Darkest Hour as a movie didn’t thrill me, the video quality did impress.  The 1080p (2.40:1) transfer is remarkably sharp.  Flesh tones are even and black levels consistent throughout.  The demolished city of Moscow even dimly lit has great clarity and detail.  The film’s 3D presentation fares worse than the 2D version as there’s only a token effort at creating a sense of depth.  The 3D is fairly wasted on this film except for the scenes outside, where the city streets offer a a more compelling sense of realism.  The film doesn’t rely on the in your face kind of shots that are common in 3D movies, but there are some instances where it comes into play.  There’s some light ghosting in this transfer but others may experience that differently depending on your equipment.  The 3D transfer is also a little bit darker than its 2D counterpart which afflicts many 3D films.  While I’m not sure if this 3D edition is worth the extra money for the 3D, fans of the movie will have to weigh the pros and cons on what’s important to them.


The Darkest Hour’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track proves to be better than its video content’s quality.  The music from the dance club will remind you of your sound system’s bass.  The rear channels offers some excellent directionality with the sound effects like explosions and gunfire that not only sound realistic but dead accurate as well.  The movie’s dialogue is consistently clear and intelligible throughout and even smaller details like water and dust swirling in the wind were audible.  This is a really impressive mix that does a nice job balancing all of the elements into one cohesive sensory experience.

Special Features  

I was disappointed in the special features overall, expecting more featurettes and 3D information.  I did enjoy the short film “Survivors” which had a very different feel than the feature film.

  • The Darkest Hour:  Survivors – This is a short film that follows the rebel resistance as freedom fighters continue the battle in Tokyo, Malibu and Afghanistan and develop new technology  to strike a major blow to the alien invaders.  I enjoyed this short film more than the feature film.  I would have preferred to see this short film to continue into a long film.
  • The Darkest Hour:  Visualizing an Invasion – An in depth look at the visual effects process.
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes – Five deleted and extended scenes totaling approximately five minutes, with optional director commentary.
  • Audio Commentary – Director commentary discussing shooting in Moscow, working with 3D, and a real life natural disaster causing shooting delays.

Final Thoughts   

The Darkest Hour isn’t as terrible as I expected but it’s also not as good as it could have been.  However, if you are looking for a benchmark, it’s significantly better than Skyline in my opinion.  While Skyline offered a much better production value and enjoyed a bigger budget, I’ll take The Darkest Hour any day over Skyline or District 9, which I hated even more.  I’m going to watch The Darkest Hour again (in a few months) to see if I enjoy it more then when my expectations in check, now that I know not to expect much.  Who knows, this one might grow on me a little and make it all the way to a three out of five score down the road.

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9 Responses to “The Darkest Hour 3D / 2D (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    Not only disliked, but hated District 9 huh? sad sad sad.

  2. Gerard Iribe

    Better than District 9? I do not concur.

  3. Sean Ferguson

    I’ve tried convincing her that District 9 is a great movie but I haven’t been able to change her opinion. Yet. But everyone can agree that Skyline sucked right? 🙂

  4. Gerard Iribe

    Not everyone. I’m one of the few that enjoyed Skyline. I do want to see Darkest Hour, though.

  5. Brian White

    I thought my eyes were seeing things and then I read that District 9 comment again.
    Control your woman Sean! Next she is going to be saying Captain America was boring 🙁

  6. Sean Ferguson

    I hate to say it but she doesn’t like Captain America either. But then again she also loves the version of Godzilla with Matthew Broderick in it if that give you a frame of reference. I will also point out her love for sharktopus.

  7. Allie

    I am in the District 9 sucked camp! One of the worst movies I have ever seen in my life and I will never, ever get those two hours back. I would rather watch Napoleon Dynamite (another movie I hate with a fiery passion) again, rather than District 9.

    Sharktopus was awesomely terrible, which made it great.

    Having not seen Skyline, Captain America or the movie reviewed above, I can’t really compare, but seeing as that Jami and I enjoy most of the same movies, I’m pretty sure I will feel the same about this one.

  8. Jami Ferguson

    Yes, I HATED District 9. Top Five Worst movies of all time! Sharktopus was a great bad movie. That’s a whole different category. District 9 tried to be a good movie and failed miserably. Sean can try but cannot control me from spreading the word about District 9. Skyline disappointed me, but it was not a complete waste of my time like District 9. I just wouldn’t watch Skyline again, or Darkest Hour. Once was enough on both of those.

    I am also aware I took so long to comment its likely no one cares anymore 🙂

  9. Aaron Neuwirth

    Yes, Best Picture Nominee District 9 failed miserably…