‘Orion And The Dark’ Review – Inside Doubt
Orion (Jacob Tremblay) is your typical 11-year-old who happens to be afraid of everything. He is a loner who doesn’t have friends based on the nightmarish scenarios — involving murderous clowns, deadly cell phone frequencies, and clogged toilets — that plague his mind every minute of the day.
The night before a class field trip to the planetarium, Orion reveals that his biggest fear is the dark. His incessant screaming and hateful vitriol of the lack of light brings forth the foreboding night entity named Dark (Paul Walter Hauser).
Unwilling to face his fear, Dark eventually convinces Orion to spend the night with him as he brings the night and its unique characteristics to the rest of the world. Doing so will allow Orion to realize that not only is the dark not so scary, but sometimes facing fear is the only way to mature as a person.
Storyboard artist turned first-time director Sean Charmatz helms Orion and the Dark, Charmatz’s other artist credits include The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, 66 episodes of SpongeBob SquarePants (2006-2012), The Angry Birds Movie 1 and 2, and How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. Charlie Kaufman wrote the animated fantasy adventure, and Kaufman has been responsible for chaotically creative films such as Anomalisa, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Adaptation.
Dark and the other night entities attempt to carry the film with their various quirks and unusual appearances. Insomnia (Nat Faxon), Quiet (Aparna Nancherla), Sleep (Natasia Demetriou), Unexplained Noises (Golda Rosheuvel), and Sweet Dreams (Angela Bassett) accompany Dark every night. While they seem like nuisances, the night entities keep things on track during the night to prepare for the inevitable transition into the day.
Sleep’s methods of putting people to sleep are the closest you’ll get to laughing at the humor in the film. Sleep smothers someone’s face with a pillow, uses ‘magic’ chloroform, and pulls out a sleep hammer to put a baby down. Werner Herzog has two very brief cameos as himself narrating the shortest of short films and a presentation at the planetarium; both way more enjoyable than they should be.
The animated film could be more cohesive both from a visual and storytelling standpoint. Its visuals are the most dazzling when any of the night entities are on screen. The film also dives into what there is to appreciate at night and in the darkness. Daytime and light, in general, are often thought of as pure and good, but Orion and the Dark is trying to shatter that stereotype. Dark isn’t evil, as people being afraid of him gets to him even if he doesn’t always show it. There’s a beauty to admire at night, and Orion and the Dark showcases that aspect in delightful fashion.
The narrative is all over the place. Orion and the Dark breaks the fourth wall, then breaks it again as both versions of the story blend together, and then randomly injects another perspective into it at the end. While the film explains this, and you eventually understand why things bounce around so much, it doesn’t make the film any more enjoyable. There’s a moment when we’re moving in a specific direction with the story, and then it changes midway solely because somebody else points out that it doesn’t seem right that the story is going in that direction.
The most significant setback that Orion and the Dark has is that it suffers from being a Netflix film. The humor falls flat and, while there is some creativity, the film reminds you of other cinematic endeavors it borrows from. It doesn’t help that the animation is bland. Some scenes in the film look unfinished because of a lack of natural shadows or depth in the human characters. Orion and the Dark will likely be dumped onto the platform and forgotten about in a matter of weeks.
Dark is essentially Wreck-It Ralph, while the film has an overall Neverending Story meets Inside Out ambiance. Several conflicts plague Orion throughout the film, and most of them are never addressed again by the end. The film introduces the concept of facing your fears even when you don’t want to. Since we had to witness a barrage of all of Orion’s fears, seeing a montage where he confronts them even hesitantly would have been more gratifying.
Despite a few interesting ideas, Orion and the Dark is an animated film that is barely worth the time of day.
Orion and the Dark (2024), DreamWorks Animation
- The night entities.
- Animation is at its peak during night/day transitions.
- A really janky story.
- Animation looks off and unfinished.
- A mostly bland way to spend 90 minutes.