Derivative, contrived ‘Darkest Minds’
It’s “Hunger Games” meets “X-Men” and an attempt to fill the void left by popular but now-concluded YA-inspired films. But, “The Darkest Minds,” despite its combination of escapist action and cutesy teen romance, lacks a solid hook.
It isn’t terrible, just a derivative, oft-predictable one. In this postapocalyptic world, majority of the global population’s teens and children have been killed by a strange plague. The remaining youngsters develop superpowers, and are herded by the US government and categorized according to their threat level.
They’re color-coded, with green assigned to those with above-average intellect, and red given to the most dangerous ones. In between are colors for prisoners with escalating energy powers.
A survivor, Ruby (Amandla Stenberg), accidentally erases her parents’ memory of her and is sent to the kids’ prison, where she is tagged as an “orange”—level child. She immediately uses her “gift” to keep that fact a secret, and spends years trying to fit in, until she is rescued by a kind doctor, Cate (Mandy Moore).
Ruby then accidentally discovers the misdeeds of her rescuer’s companion (Mark O’Brien), and manages to escape by joining three kids in a van: the telekinetic teen, Liam (Harris Dickinson); his superanalytical bestie, Charles (Skylan Brooks); and the electricity-manipulating girl, Zu (Miya Cech).
Together, they search for a haven run by other young people, and discover Clancy (Patrick Gibson), the superpowered son of the American president, leading that tribe of escapees. The choices become clear for Ruby, who learns various truths about this new world, and her place in it.
Save for the fact that the main lovebirds are interracial, the film offers few things that deviate from the formula. They’re young freedom fighters in the making who figure in an unconventional love triangle, and are forced to grow up because of an unknown conflict.
We’ve seen it all before. If anything, the sight of these abused young characters in internment camps look more chilling now because of some disturbing, stranger-than-fiction goings-on in the real world.
The effects are good, although it could’ve been flashier and more distinct. But the thing that especially weighs it down is the contrived teen romance.
Mandy Moore and Gwendoline Christie (as a hardened bounty hunter who tracks down escapees) contribute nicely, while Stenberg is capable as the main heroine, imbuing her character with grace, vulnerability and strength.
It’s not as unmemorable as other YA films like “Fallen” and “The Fifth Wave” but, ultimately, “The Darkest Minds” provides a decent, time-killing diversion despite its unoriginal content.
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