Monday, December 26, 2011

"The Darkest Hour": a lesson in possible microwave weapons and EMP, as well as a horror movie about plasma "aliens" (like "Skyline")

Well, Newt Gingrich, and perhaps other doomsday conservatives, ought to receive the total experience of the new 3-D horror film “The Darkest Hour”, directed by Chris Gorak, based on a story by Leslie Bohem, from Summit Entertainment, from Russian, French and German production sources, but in English. 

The science is pretty scary. Let’s talk this backwards.  One resourceful Russian engineer has placed a Faraday Cage around his high rise apartment, as if he expected the attack by the plasma aliens. (“I will accept nothing less,” a friend once said, “than an alien attack. That was a joke about global warming – that aliens were gradually reducing the distance of the Earth from the Sun and “they aren’t telling us.”)

Well, here, the aliens first seem like cauliflower light balls  (Summit Entertainment calls it “ball lightning”) descending from the sky one night, just the way “Skyline” (Nov. 14, 2010 here) starts.  Except here, there is a prologue in Moscow. Two nice “kids” – Sean (Emile Hirsch) and Ben (Max Minghella) – arrive in Moscow to sell their social networking site – only to get cut out by Russian business practices, through a twenty-something competitor (Joel Kinnaman). Then, they find themselves in a sexy Russian disco, marginally heterosexual, as social as well as business adversaries.  Here the movie is in prologue move (aka “Cloverfield”), and the  incidental scenery of Moscow is quite spectacular.  Suddenly, the power goes out – more or less for good.  They enjoy the descending plasma balls until the said beings start to attack them, going after anything that has energy. 

Now, we can wonder if plasma could host consciousness with a free will, something to reverse entropy and create more beings.  That might make sense, but toward the end we find out more about these critters, and they might well be castoffs in a Biblical sense.  It’s going on all over the world.  But survivors are figuring out that they can shoot them with microwave guns.

These items exist, as well documented before on my “International Issues”  blog (March 4, 2010). Just before 9/11, Popular Science produced an article warning that terrorists could manufacture them to selectively knock out the power grid and all electronics – permanently – in local areas.  So a lot of the science (and maybe religion, or at least cosmology) in the film deserves to be listened to.  The ending leads us to expect sequels.

Now that the Cold War is long over, Hollywood seems to enjoy destroying Moscow, just as with the Kremlin in "Mission Impossible IV".
Maybe a film like this is an expensive substitute for some dangerous professional tourism.
Maybe Hollywood should try making a prescient film about a solar flare knocking out our power grid, and draw comparison with the Carrington Solar Storm of 1859.  In the end, Nature may be a bigger enemy than terrorists or extraterrestrials.  But Stephen Hawking has warned us – we may have attracted their attention, and they may be mean when they show up. The darkest hour may not be just before dawn.

The film opens with interesting foreshadow: Emile's character refuses to turn off his cell phone on a plane when asked to (feeding on the debate about whether consumer electronics can interfere with planes on take-off and landing), and the power in the plane suddenly goes out for a few seconds, just before landing in Moscow. 

Official site is here

I saw this film at the Arlington VA AMC Courthouse (another old complex showing more indie films these days). The 3D looked great, but it was in a smaller auditorium that shows widescreen at about 2:1 (with slight chopping of the widest edges), and it did not have speakers around the auditorium (just two channels of stereo up front). 

Wikipedia attribution link – making ball lightning with a home microwave oven – I don’ t recommend it around computers.
Second picture – stay out of jail, in Russia or anywhere.Third picture:  a submarine can protect humans from the plasma aliens. This picture is from my trip in July 2011, to the Groton CT Nautilus Museum.

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