20th CENTURY FOX (2018)

Director: Jennifer Yuh Nelson

Starring: Amandla Stenberg, Harris Dickinson, Mandy Moore, Gwendoline Christie

Time for some more DYSTOPIAN action…

 

Based on the Young Adult novel of the same name by Alexandra Bracken, The Darkest Minds comes hot on the heels of the success of The Hunger Games. Well, about three years after the success but is there still an audience for these movies? Sure there is - if they’re done well, of course. Assembling a young cast and some experienced heads, director Jennifer Yuh Nelson certainly thought she had delivered a comparable movie here.

 

She hasn’t.

After a mysterious illness wipes out the majority of the children on Earth (just because), the remaining surviving kids are found to have superpowers and are quarantined into groups dependant on the level of their power and are tested on in order to find a cure. Ruby Daly (Stenberg) is sent to the camps are erasing her mother’s memories due to her powers. She later escapes the facility with the help of rogue doctor Cate Connor (Moore) and joins forces with fellow survivors/stragglers Zu (Miya Cech), an electrokinesis expert, telekinesis kid Liam (Dickinson) and super intelligent Chubs (Skylan Brooks) – and together the team set out to foil the nefarious governments schemes and unite the children of the world.

 

Now, I haven’t read the source material so I’m not entirely sure how accurate an adaptation this was, but either way, it’s simply not very good. For a movie with the title The Darkest Minds, it’s a bit wet behind the ears and frankly boring. Long drawn out moments hamper the pacing and the villains aren’t fleshed out well enough to be considered a threat. The superkids are pretty much invincible and their faux-Jedi abilities ensure no plot point cannot be overcome.

 

The young cast somehow manages to work well together without any of them excelling within their individual roles. Amandla Stenberg (who also appeared in The Hunger Games) doesn’t possess the charisma here to be a compelling lead and whilst Dickinson is pretty good, there’s nothing particularly special here. The other cast members were forgettable and Christie and Moore’s names are oversold on the poster. Brad Bellick – I mean Wade Williams - returns as a prison officer once more, poor guy.

 

The story seemed to want to set up a franchise and allow for greater lore to be built upon, but what was presented just wasn’t interesting. There was no tension in the battles and no stakes high enough to be called exciting. What the movie did need was a certain mettle to give it some backbone – everything is a bit nice and safe. Give me some intrigue. Romance is fine, but as the central point of the story is took away from any political or corruption angles – hell, it took away from any mystery angle too. The pacing and writing ensured that too, the initial salvo is a huge exposition dump and characters race from event to event so fast it renders most things pointless – “There’s an assassin after us!”, that’s fine, we’ll sort her out super easily once we’ve got past this frustratingly tedious plot moment.

 

Just as often as not, Young Adult movies can prove to be better than their more “mature” counterparts, but not this time. I struggled to find any positive aspects here – there was some nice cinematography, the concept was OK and Dickinson gave the better performance of the ensemble, however, all those strange Force abilities made me wants to watch Star Wars – which is a great thing. The Darkest Minds is pure Disney Channel fodder wrapped in 12A packaging and, on top of that, it’s bloody awful.

September 19th 2018

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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