(In theatres, December 2011) There have been a lot of alien invasion films since fall 2010, so there are plenty of data points in saying that The Darkest Hour is an average example of the form. Viewers’ appreciation of the film will depend on their own built-in liking for the average alien-invasion plot template in which survivors gradually understand, then fight back against the menace as their numbers dwindle. What’s noteworthy about this take on the material is the welcome change of scenery offered by modern Moscow, a few visually arresting moments and direction flourishes by Chris Gorak, as well as an alien menace that seems just a bit more original than the average. Plot-wise, The Darkest Hour has a nice ramping-up from confusion to comprehension to action and the script has a few clever moments in dealing with its own set of rules regarding the alien threat. These qualities mitigate, but don’t really compensate for a lack of more traditional strengths. The not-especially-likable characters are relatively dull, and their motivations start iffy –then become nonsensical in propelling the last act. It’s no great feat of prediction to pick who’s going to die next… and the film’s Russian characters all seem more interesting than the American ones. The plot is strictly by the numbers, and the dialogues don’t do much to raise the overall level of the film. Still, as an alien-invasion package we have seen far worse: The Darkest Hour is certainly more optimistic than Skyline and not as aggressively dumb as Battle: Los Angeles. It may not aspire to Super 8’s character development or Monsters’ thematic depths, but it’s a satisfying straight-ahead example of the form. It’s the kind of B-movie that meets expectations.