February 21, 2024

Orion and the Dark 2024 Movie Review

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Orion and the Dark 2024 Movie Review

Orion (Jacob Tremblay) is a young boy who is terrified of virtually anything ranging from social humiliation to more abstract fears like the nothingness of being. During a particularly dark night which sees Orion loudly curse the dark, a personified version of Dark (Paul Walter Hauser) comes to Orion to voice his annoyance that out of all the people afraid of him Orion is by far the loudest and most obnoxious. Dark makes a deal with reluctant Orion to have him accompany him on one day of his job with the other Night Entities of Sleep (Natasia Demetriou), Insomnia (Nat Faxon), Dreams (Angela Bassett), Quiet (Aparna Nancherla), and Unexplained Noises (Golda Rosheuvel) to show Orion that Dark is nothing to be scared of.

Orion and the Dark is a 2024 animated film co-produced by Netflix and Dreamworks Animation. The film marks the directorial debut of animator Sean Charmatz who more commonly works as a storyboard artist on everything from Spongebob Squarepants to various Warner Bros. And Dreamworks animated films. The film is an adaptation of the 2015 children’s picture book of the same name by Emma Yarlett and is adapted by noted screenwriter Charlie Kaufman marking his second time writing for animation following 2015’s Anomalisa. At its core Orion and the Dark is a very simple and straightforward story of overcoming ones fears, but while the movie features well worn ideas it’s in the delivery of those ideas where the film really comes to life.

While the film’s animation isn’t given the level of detail or experimentation as something like bigger budget productions, the use of more simplistic models is put to strong use by capturing the soft and gentle appeal of a children’s picture book while also incorporating 2D elements that allow for more playfulness such as Orion’s various flights of fantasy that come to life in the form of his journal drawings bring to life his seemingly never-ending list of fears. The film features animation work by Mikros who previously worked with Dreamworks on Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie and much like how that film captured the childlike frenetic energy that made the books so popular, the same process is used to capture the childlike sense of whimsy and mystique.

Orion and the Dark is about as simple of a story as you can get and the screenplay by Charlie Kaufman is aware of it in more ways than one affectionately pointing out the recurring tropes of this kind of narrative (including a rather cheeky reference to endings in animated films where the characters have a dance party). I don’t want to go into too much detail because part of the fun is in seeing the different directions the movie goes storywise, but needless to say that same playfulness on display in the animation can be felt in both the acting and the writing with an approach that was very Princess Bride in its delivery.

I really liked Orion and the Dark for its simplicity and sweetness that managed to maintain a feeling of intelligence without resorting to cynicism or the smug sense of self-awareness characterized by various Shrek clones. While Orion and the Dark isn’t the riskiest animated feature, there’s always a welcome place for simple stories done well and with intelligence.

Orion and the Dark 2024 Movie Review