Orion and the Dark (dir. Sean Charmatz)
By: Meghan Winebrenner
As today’s society grows exceedingly anxious, the concept of fear has taken a departure from its long time status as a children’s issue. In Dreamworks Animations’ new Netflix film, Orion and the Dark, first time director Sean Charmantz explores the prominence of fear and anxiety while allowing viewers both young and old to confront what makes them afraid. Based on the popular children’s book of the same name, Sean Charmatz directorial debut wins praise for his heartfelt adaptation that brings together the talents of Jacob Tremblay (Room) as Orion, Paul Walter Hauser (I, Tonya) as Dark, and Angela Bassett (Black Panther) as Sweet Dreams.
Orion and the Dark follows Orion, an eleven year old with a tendency for catastrophizing, whose best friend is his comfort journal and as a result, lives in fear of pretty much everything. Orion is an incredibly smart child, but his fears are holding him back from participating in class, making friends, and talking to girls. Before departing for a class field trip Orion is overwhelmed by anticipatory anxiety and would rather hide at home than risk doing something new. At night before falling asleep Orion is greeted by Dark, who is the nighttime entity in charge of darkness. Dark invites Orion on an adventure to face his fears by gaining an understanding of the night. Dark foresees an opportunity to put an end to Orion’s constant dread by illuminating for him some of the beautiful things that occur during the moonlight hours.
While Orion’s story is littered with meaning about confidence, bravery, and perseverance, perhaps the film’s most nostalgic undertone is that of generational storytelling and human connection. In an increasingly technological society a return to the simple pastime of bedtime stories provides audiences with a much needed interruption from the constant new technological advancements to remind viewers of what is truly of import. Orion and the Dark also discusses that what makes stories relevant is what makes them true, so when the film appears choppy and superfluous, Orion reminds its audience that life is that way as well.
Target Score 5/10 - Dreamworks Studio's Orion and the Dark is an animated gem that is wonderfully wholesome and visually immersive. While the film drags at times the overall story reminds audiences of the importance of human connection and the benefits that go hand and hand with facing one’s fears.