'The Darkest Hour' Comic-Con Preview: When Energy Aliens Attack

The Darkest Hour, the new alien invasion film from producer Timur Bekmambetov and director Chris Gorak, is trying to differentiate itself from the scores of other alien films with a unique breed of invader: one made entirely of "lethal wave energy."

It remains to be seen just how unique the film itself will be, but after getting a sneak peek at a trailer and some early concept art today at a Comic-Con press event, I can tell you it will at least look cool. The film centers on a group of young people — played by Emile Hirsch, Max Minghella, Olivia Thirlby and Rachael Taylor — who are visiting Moscow when the aliens attack. Together they have to figure out a way to survive and fight back against the aliens, who have no physical bodies and can vaporize them in an instant.

As we noted in our previous report, the real-life phenomenon of ball lightning plays a big part in The Darkest Hour. In the trailer, we see the aliens descending in giant balls of electricity (they don't appear to have any traditional spaceships). The aliens are apparently after our energy sources — shortly after they land, electrical grids around the world go down. Gorak mentioned that the aliens are also more dangerous during the day since they're completely invisible in daylight. At night their energy forms are more visible. The aliens also have an affect on electrical devices — something we see the main characters take advantage of in the trailers.

When I asked Gorak if the humans in the film would just be running away from the aliens, or if they'll actually try to fight back, he said that the they will eventually come up with ways to defend themselves. We saw some production stills of the main characters holding funky Ghostbusters-esque energy guns, and other images (see below) show people fighting back with flamethrowers and molotov cocktails. The aliens can only see the electrical fields of humans, so eventually the characters will figure out ways to hide out from them — for example, by staying inside of a Faraday cage, or hiding under a car.

The Russian artists working together with Gorak on the film's design have also come up with a few zany concepts. One production image showed a cat wrapped in conductive material (a Faraday cat!), and another showed a soldier in Soviet-era garb riding a horse covered in conductive material. Gorak said some of that crazy imagery — in particular the soldier — will make it into the film. Gorak was previously the art director on films like Minority Report and Fight Club, experience which may help him to create an aesthetic different from other alien invasion films.

Gorak was also mentioned that James Cameron gave his thumbs up to the 3D imagery in The Darkest Hour. I didn't see the trailer in 3D, but the electrical and amorphous design of the aliens should make good use of the format.

The Darkest Hour will hit theaters on December 23 (yes, the same day as Tintin). Below, check out some concept designs from the film, as well as some imagery that will appear in an upcoming comic (with participation from notable artists like Pia Guerra and Ben Templesmith).