'The Darkest Minds': Review

By Tim Grierson Senior Us Critic | Screen International, July 31, 2018 | Go to article overview

'The Darkest Minds': Review


Tim Grierson Senior Us Critic, Screen International


Fox’s new YA dystopian thriller stars Amandla Stenberg and Harris Dickinson

Dir: Jennifer Yuh Nelson. US. 2018. 103mins.

Mutant powers, a post-apocalyptic setting, a main character whose coming of age coincides with her becoming a hero: The Darkest Minds recycles many recent popular cinematic tropes, resulting in a familiar young-adult drama that struggles to find its voice. Rising star Amandla Stenberg has a few affecting moments as one of the few teen survivors of a mysterious pandemic, but director Jennifer Yuh Nelson’s live-action feature debut mostly walks in the footsteps of bolder and more original takes on similar sci-fi subject matter.

A constrictive narrative hems in Stenberg, who isn’t given enough opportunities to be a truly dynamic leading lady.

Releasing August 3 in the States and August 10 in the UK, this Fox offering will hope to cater to the same audiences that sought out The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner and Harry Potter. (The fact that the characters have incredible powers might also intrigue fans of superhero films.) The Darkest Minds may be too late to cash is on the YA/fantasy trend, however, and without major stars the movie could prove to be only a modest performer.

Based on Alexandra Bracken’s 2012 novel, the film stars Stenberg as Ruby, a sensitive teenager living in a nightmare scenario: an unknown disease has killed off most of America’s children, and the ones who remain must be shipped off to rehabilitation centres because they possess varying degrees of superpowers. Ruby learns that the most powerful amongst them are eliminated because the government fearing that they can’t be controlled. Thus Ruby (who can manipulate people’s minds) must hide the extent of her powers.

Soon, she is sprung from the rehabilitation centre by Cate (Mandy Moore), a caring doctor who works for The Children’s League, an underground organisation determined to eradicate these centres. But Ruby distrusts Cate and runs away, teaming up with a group of fellow survivors, including the handsome Liam (Harris Dickinson), to search for an undisclosed safe house for those with superpowers.

Nelson (who directed Kung Fu Panda 2 and co-directed Kung Fu Panda 3) gives The Darkest Minds all the requisite gloomy grandeur, presenting a crumbling world thrust into chaos and paranoia. …

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