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Review: The Darkest Minds

The Darkest Minds
6 10

PLOT: When a deadly disease wipes out 98% of the nations children, a young girl with special powers must find a way to escape those who want her eliminated - because you know, that's what happens in this type of flick. When she discovers a small group looking for the same, they begin searching for a mysterious place that is rumored to be a sanctuary for the small percent of surviving children and teens.

REVIEW: Remember when movie fans were inundated with all the YA apocalyptic tales of teens fighting a bunch of monsters and evil adults? Did you really think that they were done? Well, this week we have yet another tale of young people working together to survive a series of PG-13 intense action sequences. This time, it is THE DARKEST MINDS, based on a series of novels and novelas written by Alexandra Bracken. While this offering from 20th Century Fox - directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson -  may not be original or even remotely fresh, it's slightly better than you may expect thanks to the charismatic leads.

the darkest minds gwendoline christie jennifer yuh mandy moore amandla stenberg harris dickinson 2018

After a deadly disease wipes out 98% of the nations children, a select few mysteriously survive. The ones that made it, all appear to have supernatural abilities; reading minds, controlling electricity and the like. One of the survivors, Ruby (Amandla Stenberg - Rue from THE HUNGER GAMES), manages to escape - courtesy of a seemingly kind woman named Cate (Mandy Moore) - from a specialized concentration camp where she has been held since she was ten. You see, Ruby is labeled an “orange,” which means she is too dangerous for the government to control. However, when Ruby senses danger from one of Cate’s partners, she runs away from her and comes across fellow survivors Liam (Harris Dickinson), Zu (Miya Cech) and Chubs (Skylan Brooks). Together, they find themselves searching for a place of legend where children like them can be safe. Or can they???

Like most of these YA adaptations, THE DARKEST MINDS is a heavily convoluted tale. You have President Gray (Bradley Whitford) who has a son, Clancy (Patrick Gibson), with the same abilities as Ruby. Can we trust Clancy? Oh my! You even have several factions trying to either seek or destroy all the surviving teens. It’s a predictable fable, one that even has probably the most unconvincing love triangle from any of these films - thankfully it spends very little time on it. It follows the same pattern as the films that came before, complete with a series of pop songs to sell a soundtrack. If you have a vague memory of TWILIGHT and THE HUNGER GAMES, you won’t be surprised by much here.

As predictable as it may be, Jennifer Yuh Nelson (co-director of KUNG FU PANDA 2 and 3) is able to find moments that shine. The action sequences are well executed, and while the script is as heavy-handed and obvious as it is, she at least makes it feel slightly relevant. That said, you have to wonder if modern teenage audiences will have the same reaction as they did when TWILIGHT had young girls giddy with excitement. That was ten years ago when we first met Bella, Edward and Jacob. What fans look for today may not be what they did back then.

Even still, while you can make comparisons to the silly glowing vampire movie, THE DARKEST MINDS feels much closer to THE HUNGER GAMES. Frankly, it is one of the better YA adaptations compared to the wave of lesser knockoffs. The strongest element here is the cast itself. Amandla Stenberg is quite sympathetic as Ruby. While I oftentimes questioned the characters choices, Stenberg managed to make me care. Even when they introduce a weak and unconvincing romantic interest courtesy of the mysterious Clancy Gray, the actress manages to make it work. Gibson isn't the problem, the character of Clancy is poorly explored thanks to the less-than-stellar script.

the darkest minds amanda stenberg gendoline christie harris dickinson jennifer yuh mandy moore 2018

The smartest thing that this modern story manages to do is keep focus on Ruby and her new found friends. Fresh off of his daring and critically acclaimed work in BEACH RATS, Harris Dickinson is terrific as the main romantic interest Liam. Both Harris and Amandla are terrific together, and when the story is on them - without the annoying Clancy - it is far more engaging than one would expect. And with Miya Cech and Skylan Brooks rounding out the main cast, you have a solid group of performances that you can easily connect to. Frankly, it worked well enough for me that I am a little more forgiving of the predictable script and the over extended run time.

THE DARKEST MINDS feels like it perhaps should have come out five years ago. However, it is one of the better examples of the many generic YA feature film adaptations that have hit theatres since 2008. The cast is solid, and the X-MEN type storyline gives them a chance to have fun with the material. And probably the best thing about the film? The romantic pairing of Amanda Stenberg and Harris Dickinson is very effective. If you placed this film on a scale between TWILIGHT and THE HUNGER GAMES, it would probably rank somewhere close to THE MAZE RUNNER. It may not be perfect, but if there are still fans of this kind of thing out there, they will certainly enjoy this.

Source: JoBlo.com

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