While Hall H and the convention floor bristled with activity on Saturday as studios and filmmakers peddled their upcoming projects, Summit Entertainment herded a group of reporters into a guest room at the nearby Hard Rock Hotel that was made up with images from their forthcoming alien invasion movie “The Darkest Hour.” Directed by Chris Gorak, and starring Emile Hirsch, Olivia Thirlby, Max Minghella, Rachel Taylor, Joel Kinnaman and Greg Kinnear the film follows a group of Americans who find themselves stranded in Moscow after an extraterrestrial force descends on the planet and causes destruction and terror on a global scale. Check out a few of the first details that the filmmakers released about “The Darkest Hour,” whose theatrical trailer premiered at the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con.
1. Although the film features a global alien invasion, the focus of its story is on only on the adventures of the main characters.
Producer Tom Jacobson (“Unstoppable“) said that as exciting as Roland Emmerich-style mayhem may be, the movie is focusing its point of view on that of the four main characters. “It’s all told from a micro point of view, and that was one of the points of the storytelling, that we’re with them,” Jacobson explained. “But they learn things, like the audience. We never go elsewhere in the world, but [for example] they end up at a destroyed American embassy, and they find clues about the macro story. But that was important to us, because it felt like if you’re a soldier in war, you’re right there. You don’t know what’s going on; you don’t know what the commanders are saying or what’s going on in a different field of battle. So that’s really the point of view of the movie.”
2. Russia became the film’s locale as much because its alienness could provide the production with a variety of resources.
Set in Moscow, the film lends an extra degree of foreignness to its story by putting the characters in an environment that was unfamiliar to them – and the filmmakers are hoping, will be unfamiliar to audiences too. “We decided right at the beginning of the [production] let’s have the location be a character,” Jacobson explained. “It felt true to the idea of some of the challenges of an adventure for a regular person is the locale – to take you out of your comfort zone and put you somewhere else and then have something very impactful happen. And then Moscow itself felt like an exotic place – it represents something globally and internationally but people don’t know a lot about it, so we wanted that journey to feel like a real journey.”
3. The filmmakers enlisted actors who aren’t action heroes in order to give their struggle some substance.
Gorak said that it was key to the film’s success that they cast actors who look and act human in order to make the devastation seem believable. “Emile Hirsch and Max Minghella are traveling to Moscow for the first time on a business deal” he said of the main two characters. “That night they’re partying in the great clubs of Moscow and they meet Olivia Thirlby and Rachael Taylor, and then the invasion happens in a very intense attack for these characters. They manage to hide for a few days, and when they come out of the basement, essentially, the world has been destroyed, and the aliens have secured victory basically overnight.”
“From planes, trains, cars, computers to cell phones, nothing electrical works,” he continued. “They venture out into the city to try to figure out how to survive and where to go, and obviously not get killed.”
4. Behind the scenes, meanwhile, the filmmakers enlisted talent that was intimately familiar with Russia, not to mention the sort of spectacle that are an integral component of alien-invasion movies.
Jacobson said that they tapped Russian auteur Timur Bekmambetov early on to help facilitate the production in Russia, and contribute to its design. “From the earliest concept art, we partnered with Timur Bekmambetov on this movie, and he’s obviously a great visualist and has a great design team in Moscow,” Jacobson explained. “Moscow is a character in the movie, and so we liked the notion of these people being torn out of their everyday world and going through this tragic, dramatic adventure in Moscow. So we would take a photo of Moscow and then [create a picture] of what it might look like afterwards. The same thing with Red Square. And there’s a famous mall off of Red Square called the GUM, which is this beautiful department store, and in it, [the characters] come through and they see this crashed plane, this incredible tragic devastation, because planes are falling from the sky. That’s sort of a wonderful, creative part of making this movie.”
5. Most interestingly, in a welcome change of pace, the aliens are not the odd green monsters of so many other alien invasion movies.
“Through their powers, they’re made up of lethal wave energy,” Gorak revealed. “They knock out all of our power grid, [because] they see electricity. And another great element of the film is that we get to go in the head of the aliens as they search for their targets; they see our electromagnetic pulses, and that’s basically how they see and smell us. Their number one defense mechanism is they’re made up of such intense lethal wave energy that just by touch, you’re sucked in and shredded just like a woodchipper, and instantly your body is cauterized into ash and destroyed. Another great weapon with their energy is they can reach out with their energy and grab things and pull them into a shred as well. So there are a lot of fun dynamics to the aliens.”
“The audience learns exactly what the characters learn, so we rely on the characters to understand the invasion and what these aliens are made of and what their weapons are,” he added.
“The Darkest Hour” opens on December 23rd. —Todd Gilchrist