Back in the 1970s punk band Sham 69 sang about ‘If the Kids Are United’ and they were. The song would become an anthem of sorts for the band and young generation of the time. Fast forward 40 years the kids may be united but in The Darkest Minds onscreen they are, but don’t expect the same from the viewers.
Over the past ten years, Stephanie Meyer‘s Twilight Saga (and Harry Potter in some ways) helped create a platform for Young Adult films especially book adaptations. From ashes rose the likes of The Hunger Games, Maze Runner, Divergent. Some worked critically, so,e faltered at the end the rest didn’t even finish their run. BBFC even created a new 12A rating giving YA films a chance to be emotional but risque. What was thriving at the time is now sliding into the dark oblivion of unforgiveness next to Adam Sandler films.
The problem with many Young Adult (YA) Films, they all seem to sing from the same hymn sheet. The Darkest Minds is no different, 2 hours of lacklustre De Ja Vu.
Adapted from the first (of three) Alexandra Bracken novels, The Darkest Minds takes us into the Dystopian USA. The country has just suffered a pandemic which killed 98% of the child/teen population (a mysterious disease called IAAN – Idiopathic Adolescent Acute Neurodegeneration). The 2% who survived developed powerful abilities that the government saw as a threat.
We first meet our heroine Ruby (Lidya Jewett) on her birthday, happy with her parents. The following morning they are terrified of her, don’t recognize her and the government troops take her away to the internment camps. In these camps, the kids are split into colours depending on their abilities. The weakest are the Greens whose abilities are superintelligence with Blues who have telepathic powers, the Golds can control electricity. If you are an Orange who can read and control your mind or Red (powers revealed at the end of the film) are considered extremely dangerous. They are executed on the spot when found.
We now meet Ruby (now played by Amandla Stenberg) six years later, who is an orange hiding as a Green. Just when they were about to discover her true colour, she is rescued by the camp nurse Cate (Mandy Moore). Cate is a member of The Children’s League and helps Ruby escape and at the rendezvous point, she learns more about the League. Ruby is then rescued this time by a trio of runaway teens Liam (Harris Dickinson), Chubs (Skylan Brooks) and Zu (Miya Cech). All with their own special abilities and they collectively use those powers to escape the adults and search for the mythical safe haven.
The Darkest Minds is the live-action directorial feature debut for Jennifer Yuh Nelson who made a name for herself on the Kung Fu Panda films. From the word go she’s flogging a dead horse and attempting to create a film out of something that’s already been done a thousand times before. It’s also blatantly obvious 20th Century Fox want to make this into a franchise. They forget one big important question…” Can this be successfully be made into a film in the first place?“. Leaves you wondering if the Netflix series route might have been a better option.
Whilst the cast themselves did perfectly fine you can’t blame them as they were given one-dimensional characters and very little to work on. You got to ask with the powers Ruby has, why hasn’t she used them more often or if greens are super intelligent why have they come up with a solution to the madness? You even forget Gwendoline Christie, Bradley Whitford, Mandy Moore is actually in this.
The Darkest Minds is a bland, desultory unoriginal YA Dystopian film we’ve seen a thousand times before. We’re constantly reminded this is the generation for the future, now let them be what they should be. Now please Ruby can you help me erase the last 2hours of memory, please?
Sci-fi, Young Adult | USA, 2018 | 12A | 10th August 2018 (UK) | 20TH Century Fox Pictures | Dir.Jennifer Yuh Nelson | Amandla Stenberg, Harris Dickinson, Mandy Moore, Skylan Brooks, Miya Cech, Bradley Whitford