Star Rating:

The Darkest Minds

Director: Jennifer Yuh Nelson

Actors: Mandy Moore, Gwendoline Christie

Release Date: Friday 10th August 2018

Genre(s): Sci-Fi, Thriller

Running time: 103 minutes

Imprisoned by a totalitarian American government, all children under the age of 18 who survived a deadly virus are now imbued with special powers. Some have superior intelligence, others have telekinesis and telepathy. A young woman, who has hidden her true powers for years to survive, breaks out of the camp and finds herself on the run and in search of others like her.

Although most believed - and certainly hoped - that the YA fad was effectively over and done with following the conclusion of 'The Hunger Games' trilogy and 'The Maze Runner', you'll still see a studio send up a kite every now and then to see if there's interest in it. Whether they're objectively good or bad is irrelevant, the question is whether the rabid fanbase will turn out in sufficient numbers to warrant it and if there'll be enough momentum behind it to sustain itself for the inevitable sequels. For every success story, there's at least five or ten failures. 'The Darkest Minds' is the latter.

Like so many YA novels, it focuses itself on an young person with extraordinary powers who just wants to be left alone but is called upon to help lead a resistance against the evil government / corporation / parental society / delete as appropriate that will change things forever. The young person will have a love interest that'll eventually either spin itself into a love triangle, or end in tragedy for them - but not before they learn a valuable lesson to trust nobody except themselves. There'll be token characters, probably a double-cross somewhere along the way, lots of pop-rock and EDM tracks, some mid-tier veteran actors turning up here and there for a scene or two, and it'll clock in under two hours and under budget.

That blanket formula that's just been lain out has been done over and over and over again, and 'The Darkest Minds' fits into it perfectly the same the likes of 'Divergent' and 'The Mortal Instruments' and many more have. In truth, you could easily splice together scenes from any one of these movies into 'The Darkest Minds' and you'd have a serviceable movie and it'd still make sense, relatively speaking. The cast are all game enough, all TV actors eager to make a break into feature length movies like Gwendoline Christie from 'Game Of Thrones' or Patrick Gibson from 'The OA'. Even the lead - Amandla Stenberg - was Rue, the young mute girl from the first 'Hunger Games' movies.

Director Jennifer Yuh Nelson, who previously directed animated movie sequels 'Kung Fu Panda 2' and 'Kung Fu Panda 3', paces the action so fitfully that it has no flow or energy to it, and the dialogue itself is so hackneyed and wooden that even the most skilled actors couldn't turn it into something usable. Although it has a limited budget for a movie of this size, other more skilled directors have worked with less and come back with better. Here, it looks cheap and flimsy and there isn't anything remotely unique about the plot itself or the manner in which it's delivered to the screen.

In all, it's a derivative and bland attempt at kickstarting another YA franchise into life that's pretty much dead on arrival.