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Orion and the Dark (2024) Review

This is a review for the 2024 movie “Orion and the Dark”.

Orion and the Dark is an animated movie from Netflix and Dreamworks. It is based on the 2014 children’s picture book from Emma Yarlett. It is directed by Sean Charmat and notably features a writing credit for Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind).

While I tend to be quite resentful of Netflix’s film output, I’ve always found their animated content to be top tier. Klaus and Nimona are two of my favourite animated movies of all time, the only real competition being Dreamworks’ Shrek 2. Therefore, my expectations were high for this movie. While I don’t believe it to be a five-star masterpiece; I do think it’s very, very solid.

What is Orion and the Dark?

Orion and the Dark is a story about a boy named Orion, who is scared of everything. He’s scared of bees, toilet-related floods, bullies and talking to girls. Most importantly, though, he’s terrified of the dark. Unfortunately, the darkness if very offended by this and the personification of it (known as “Dark”) comes to talk it out. Dark takes Orion on a journey around the world, to experience the joys of night. Along the way, we’re introduced to a range of otherworld entities. There are, also, some time travel shenanigans.

It’s a surprisingly heartfelt story, that really focuses on the character of Orion. As the prospect of night becomes threatened, he is forced to face his fears and fight for his new friends.

Ultimately, this is a movie that’s intended for kids – though I’m not sure how much success it will have there. Some of the timey wimey antics may be pushing the boundaries a little bit for the target audience. However, the heartfelt messaging works just as well with me.

Orion and the Dark: Review

This movie has a manic energy to it, that makes it a very easy watch. When it writes itself into a corner, it introduces a crazy idea to get itself out of it. Sometimes, this can be quite jarring; but the movie recognizes this and manages to justify all of the nonsense. As a result, we’re left with a very fun thrill ride – that’s full to the brim with imagination. There are cliché moments that you can see coming a mile away. It has that classic third act break-up between two main characters (as is the case for all three of the animated movies I mentioned above), but there is a lot that’s new here. It’s apparent to me that this was somebody’s vision, and that there wasn’t any studio meddling here. Perhaps the main advantage of Netflix mistreating its animated teams, is that it doesn’t bother checking their output.

The main worry I had was that Orion’s anxiety was simply too extreme. It made for an entertaining first act, but it did seem like it would be impossible to have this boy realistically change over the course of 90 minutes. While I don’t think this was perfect, I think they made a valiant effort.

I can tell that there’s a lot of heart in this movie, and it saddens me that I wasn’t touched much by it. That might just be a problem on my end, but my cold soul did not feel touched by this. Though, perhaps that could be due to me not being in the… Yeah, let’s discuss the target audience.

Who is this movie for???????

I often end my reviews with a section on “who should watch this movie?”, and it’s usually designed to give an answer. Every movie has an audience, somewhere. It’s not often, however, that I ask this question earnestly. Who is Orion and the Dark for? The subject matter is very kid-heavy, and as a main character, Orion is annoying to adults. Messaging about not being afraid of the dark isn’t really too adult-friendly, either.

However, the movie really plays with narrative structure in a way that I think kids will struggle to follow. If I’d watched this movie as a kid, I probably would’ve been annoyed by all of the contrivances – unable to piece together the thematic meaning of it all. There are a lot of jokes that kids won’t understand, which is normal for a kids movie; but a gag about Sundance feels so out of place.

I keep saying that this movie might not have been for me, but was it not? This movie feels a lot more like a movie for adults that enjoy animated projects; while also having an aesthetic of kid-friendliness. That could be a way to get Netflix to allow it to exist. Or, if you’re cynical, it could be a way to avoid any criticism.

Who should watch Orion and the Dark?

If you liked animated movies, then you won’t be disappointed by this. It’s on Netflix and it’s short, so what do you have to lose? I don’t know any kids, so I might be misjudging the appropriateness for kids; but it’s certainly friendly enough for them. This would work as a family film night, especially with older kids who will be able to follow the slightly confusing narrative.

If you’re an adult that’s too proud to watch things that can be a bit kid-like, though, give this one a miss.

Rating: 7.5 / 10

This was a review for the 2024 movie “Orion and the Dark”. Did you enjoy this movie, or are you afraid of the dark? Let us know in the comments below.

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