The Darkest Minds
The reheated bowl of dystopian young adult clichés going by the name The Darkest Minds should put the sub-genre on hold for the time being.
Based on the novel by Alexandra Bracken and directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson (Kung Fu Pandas 2 and 3), who makes a clumsy transition to live-action filmmaking, the story centers on the inexplicable death of the majority of children around the world — or perhaps just in the U.S., since it’s the lone setting shown or mentioned.
The surviving minors have gifts, be it telekinesis, elite intelligence or more advanced capabilities that get them labeled (with convenient color coding) and sent to youth internment camps or flat out exterminated.
If that knockoff premise wasn’t sufficiently troubling, the supporting characters are played by actors not quite talented enough to be in this category’s pristine films — if such things still exist — but are led by one who got her start in arguably the most lucrative series of that type to date and has a skill set that deserves better material.
That would be rising YA star Amandla Stenberg (The Hunger Games), whose Ruby escapes a detention center with help from kindly nurse Cate (Mandy Moore), who’s part of a covert organization that wants to help young people.
With Ruby not quite ready to trust adults after seven years of torment, their union is short-lived as she links up with secondhand versions of Love, Simon’s Nick Robinson (Harris Dickinson, Beach Rats) and Every Day’s Justice Smith (his The Get Down co-star Skylan Brooks) to reach an edenic society run by the mysterious Slip Kid.
Also joined by mute electrical conductor Zu (Miya Cech), the crew’s mission is fraught with peril, and while one doesn’t want them to die, neither they nor their world are developed to the point where it’s easy to care about them beyond their survival.
The villains are likewise poorly drawn and/or familiar, and when a potentially interesting one appears, she’s quickly dispatched.
A good while after an awkwardly-shot car chase where it’s nearly impossible to identify the predatory driver, the great Gwendoline Christie (Lady Brienne from Game of Thrones) gets roughly two minutes of screen time as Lady Jane, an apparent bounty hunter or assassin or…something.
As with many of the film’s details, her role is never really clear and neither is the head-scratching title. For these misfires and more, The Darkest Minds is destined to join Vampire Academy, Mortal Instruments and Beautiful Creatures as series non-starters, despite its set-up for a second chapter.
Grade: D. Rated PG-13. Now playing at AMC Classic, Biltmore Grande and Carolina Cinemark
(Photo: Twentieth Century Fox)