Surviving the dystopian fatigue
Review: The Darkest Minds
(M) Amandla Stenberg, Harris Dickinson, Patrick Gibson, Mandy Moore
Moviegoers would be frothing over this teen led dystopian revolution…if only it was made ten years earlier. Although The Darkest Minds is based off the bestseller novel with the same name, the film goes through the motions borrowing all too familiar themes from every YA dystopian film ever made.
There was hope that after the Divergent series tanked and the mild success of the Maze Runner series that the film industry would sense audiences’ fatigue towards these storylines. Or at least provide a script that isn’t doused in clichés, but alas here we are.
Directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson (Kung Fu Panda 2, Kung Fu Panda 3), the first 20 minutes of The Darkest Minds tries too hard to explain the back story of this imagined future. So much so, that the audience always has one foot on the train but never gets on board. The Darkest Minds depicts a not-so distant future, where a virus outbreak kills 98% of the world’s children. The children who’ve survived develop supernatural abilities and are considered a societal threat. Now hunted by the government, the children are rounded up and kept captive in camps— segregated by the powers they possess. Powers that range from advanced intelligence to telekinesis and mind control. Pretty sure there were fire breathers in there too.
This is all told through the eyes of 16-year-old Ruby (Amandla Stenberg) one of the most powerful surviving teens. Ruby eventually escapes her camp and goes on the run with a group of misfits she meets along the way as they try to find a sanctuary.
There are a few plot-holes and plot irregularities. Like how older Ruby (Stenberg) is about three shades lighter-skinned than the actress cast as young Ruby (talented newcomer Lidya Jewett)?
The stakes never feel too high in this film and its predictability is underwhelming. There is glimpses of an idyllic summer camp run by kids for kids and an attempt at some teen romance. Despite the limitations of the script, Stenberg was able to hold the film together. Her performance along with fellow upcoming star Harris Dickinson (Beach Rats) who plays Stenberg’s telekinesis love interest, Liam, manage to provide some believability that the audience can grasp onto. Another standout was Skylan Brooks as Chubs who brought a few laughs. Despite the lack-luster film, keep an eye on these actors. They’re young, they’re talented and hopefully their upcoming films will give them the space to showcase the acting chops that they no doubt have. The cast was rounded off with Mandy Moore (I’m Not Here) and Game of Thrones star Gwendoline Christie, however their roles felt underused.
If anything The Darkest Minds did show how Ruby began thinking beyond herself and instead of being afraid of her abilities found ways to use them to help those around her. There is something to admire about that sentiment, it’s a pity film’s delivery wasn’t as strong.