The Darkest Minds (2018)

The Darkest Minds poster.png
The Dullest Minds

Director: Jennifer Yuh Nelson
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Starring: Amandla Stenberg, Harris Dickinson, Skylan Brooks, Miya Cech, Patrick Gibson, Mandy Moore, Gwendoline Christie, Bradley Whitford

After showing her directorial chops on the impressive Kung Fu Panda sequels, Jennifer Yuh Nelson makes her live action debut by adapting Alexandra Bracken's popular novels. The unfortunate thing, though, is how the dust has long settled on adaptations of Young Adult novels. If this was to be treated like a race, The Hunger Games has long passed the finish line, Divergent couldn't make it through the last leg, and The Mortal Instruments threw up and quit after the first mile. But while everyone has left the race behind and moved onto other things, The Maze Runner quietly reaches the end, while a bizarre decision is made for The Darkest Minds to just begin.

After a disease kills 98% of the worlds children, the survivors are gifted with a variety of superpowers, and put into internment camps after being declared a threat. The severity of the powers are decided by their accompanying colours, with 16 year old Ruby (Amandla Stenberg) being considered one of the more dangerous, with her mind control powers being coloured Orange. She manages to escape the camp, joining up with a group of teenagers to flee government forces.

Even if we overlook how late to the party this feature feels, there's little to differentiate it from the others. What's on offer is a diluted cocktail of YA tropes which felt second-hand when Divergent trod through them, and feel even more like hand me downs here. Mixed in with the traditional "children rebel against a horrific regime created by sadistic parents" are X-Men style powers, as well as the prejudice which comes part and parcel with them. Mixed in with that is a plot which one can see coming from miles away, served with an unfortunate feeling of boredom on top, and Benjamin Wallfisch's score being disregarded for heavy handed inclusions of pop songs.

It's a shame, because the cast are a talented bunch who do a good job throughout, but can only do so much with lacklustre material. Skylan Brooks is the standout in a fun role, with Amandla Stenberg does wonderfully (even when trying to sell a chemistry free romance). A special mention is reserved for Gwendoline Christie, whose feels like an afterthought from her first appearance in a dodgy wig, while Bradley Whitford is wasted in what's essentially a nothing role.

The release of The Darkest Minds in 2018 feels as relevant as Psy making a Harlem Shake video. What Jennifer Yuh Nelson has delivered is quite behind the curve, accompanied by a subpar script that can't overcome the poor cliches or thin strokes the characters are painted with.