Netflix’s “Orion and the Dark” is a colorful display of our childhood fears and a movie Pixar wish it had made.
Read our Editorial Guidelines regarding how posts are written and rated and our use of affiliate links.
“Orion and the Dark” Plot Summary
“Orion and the Dark” is the first great streaming movie this year. Director Sean Charmatz and writer Charlie Kaufman’s animated story fills every minute with originality, thoughtfulness, and unpredictability. Imagine if Pixar was able to get a little more abstract, more conceptual, and (pardon the pun) more dark, and you’d have “Orion and the Dark.”
“Orion and the Dark” starts with a 10-minute look inside the mind of Orion (Jacob Tremblay), a boy who’s crippled with so much anxiety and fear that it renders him incapable of even going on a school field trip. The montage of Orion’s hypothetical disasters is inventive, funny, and relatable to any kid battling their pre-pubescent woes. But one night, Orion is visited by Dark (Paul Walter Hauser), a friendly and boisterous embodiment of the darkness. Dark wants to take Orion on an adventure into the night to show him that he can be brave, and while Orion is initially reluctant, he takes a leap of faith.
The two introduce us to the world of night, filled with other talking entities like Sweet Dreams (Angela Basset), Sleep (Natasia Demetriou), and Paranoia (Nat Faxon). Each has a role in how people spend the night, and Orion learns to appreciate the unknown. But this is only half the story, for “Orion and the Dark” is actually a story within a story told by an older Orion (Colin Hanks) to his daughter Hypatia (Mia Akemi Brown). The narrative devices are refreshing and keep adult viewers engaged as Dark has his own identity crisis and Orion must figure out how to save him.
“Orion and the Dark” embraces the things that go bump in the night and provides a welcoming new perspective for children to view their own bedroom in the dark. The animation stays energetic with Orion’s neuroses and imaginative with its embodiment of concepts like Unexplained Noises and Quiet. Some may see the Netflix movie as a rip-off of Pixar or the story’s metafiction as too overwhelming for children, but “Orion and the Dark” paves its own path, and with the help of great character design, inventive story beats, and a compassionate tone, this movie is a memorable family film.
“Orion and the Dark” is rated TV-Y7 due to themes of fear and language that might be unsuitable for children.
Other Noteworthy Information
- “Orion and the Dark” is originally a picture book by Emma Yarlett. The book follows a 6-year-old boy. The movie makes the protagonist around 11-12 and includes other entities like Quiet, Sleep, and Insomnia.
- Screenplay writer Charlie Kaufman is known for more mature surrealist films like “Being John Malkovich” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” that include identity crises and reflections on mortality. Both signature pieces that could be found in this movie.
“Orion and the Dark” General Information
|Based On Work By
|“Orion and the Dark” novel by Emma Yarlett
|February 2, 2024
|How To Watch
|1 Hour, 30 Minutes
|Noted Characters and Cast
|Paul Walter Hauser
|Mia Akemi Brown
Please Note: This character guide is not an exhaustive list of every cast member, and character descriptions may contain what can be considered spoilers.
Orion (Jacob Tremblay)
Orion is a boy afraid of everything. His head is filled with anxieties and hypothetical scenarios of what can go wrong in any situation. He may long to take risks and be brave, but he’s a prisoner of his own mind.
- The actor is also known for their role in “Room.”
Dark (Paul Walter Hauser)
Dark is a talking and flying embodiment of darkness. But contrary to Orion’s fears or our idea of the dark, Dark is a friendly entity that wishes to take Orion on an adventure in the night sky, but he’s self-conscious about how most children see him.
- The actor is also known for their role in “Black Bird.”
Hypatia (Mia Akemi Brown)
Hypatia is Orion’s daughter, eagerly listening to his story and trying to guess what happens next. Hypatia is braver than Orion and wishes to be an active participant in his adventure.
- The actor is also known for their role in “Alien Intervention.”
“Fun is just a word people made up to make danger sound more appealing!”
“Orion and the Dark” Review
Let us know your thoughts in the comments:
- Is “Orion and the Dark” too dark for kids?
Inventive Story Embraces Children’s Fears
What child hasn’t been afraid of the dark? While Orion amplifies most kids’ anxieties, he’s still relatable, so his introduction to the nighttime world is one filled with characters that the most shy child can enjoy. Dark is a friendly fellow that wants to be your friend; Unexplained Noises is a goofy horn machine; and Sleep humorously knocks people out with a pillow. “Orion and the Dark” provides a fantastical and humorous answer to children’s fears about the unknown and turns them into welcoming friends.
Story Framing Connects to Children and Adults
About 30 minutes into “Orion and the Dark,” the movie reveals that Orion is an adult telling this story to his daughter. This detail adds a whole new layer to the story’s structure and potentially gives adults and parents a new investment. Orion doesn’t speak like a child so much as a middle-aged man with a child’s voice. The script is filled with witty one-liners that may fly over children’s heads, but the kids are too busy enjoying the bubbly animations.
On The Fence
Meta Narrative Structure Can Leave Viewers Restless
“Orion and the Dark” keeps viewers guessing where the story is leading. This is a blessing and a curse since each new obstacle asks viewers to invest in the narrative unknown. When Hypatia joins kid-Orion, when they have to venture into Orion’s head, when they have to troubleshoot how to get Hypatia back, all feel like new problems with a thin string that ties them together. “Orion and the Dark” doesn’t clearly set up its problem in the first act and solve it in the last, but it keeps throwing narrative curve balls at viewers, hoping that they can catch them.
Good If You Like
- Imaginative and conceptual family movies, Charlie Kaufman’s past work, and animated films.
If you like this movie, we recommend:
Check out our movies page for our latest movie reviews and recommendations.
Follow, Like and Subscribe