Review by Thomas Tunstall courtesy of Irish Film Critic.
Imprisoned by an adult world that now fears everyone under 18, a group of teens form a resistance group to fight back and reclaim control of their future.
In the tradition of “The Hunger Games,” “Divergent,” and “The Maze Runner,” comes “The Darkest Minds,” yet another entry into the young adult dystopian future genre based on a succession of best-selling novels. What is perhaps most surprising about the evolution of these film versions is that each series seems noticeably weaker than its predecessors.
Billed as a science fiction thriller, there is astonishingly few thrills in this meandering, unevenly paced story. For our intrepid protagonists, new gifts – or scourges, depending on one’s perspective – come not from mutations but rather a plague that has killed most kids under the age of twenty. The few that remain have acquired strange powers, categorized into a pyramid outlined vaguely early on. Of course, the useful detail about the capabilities of each level of the hierarchy invariably reveals ever so slowly during the one-hour forty-five-minute runtime.
At the top of the pyramid are those rare few children who can manipulate people’s minds. It is in this realm that the most compelling things in the movie should and do happen. Unfortunately, that’s not saying much. The theme of mind control, for example, was explored much more enjoyably in the first season of the Netflix series “Jessica Jones.” As far back as the classic “Foundation Trilogy” by Isaac Asimov, the character study of a dominating, world-altering mental influence, is superb.
Other faculties the youngsters have suddenly developed appear to be more closely associated with the “X-Men” series. Stale demonstrations of destructive powers shielded by rubber gloves or fantastic kinetic talents fail to enthuse. No doubt, the challenge for any contemporary writer is to find some innovative angle along clearly well-trod territory. After all, what novel superpowers can the human mind imagine? More importantly, what interesting things can be done with them that already hasn’t? To its credit, the “X-Men” series at least tries to design fresh characters that have some sort of clever and potentially useful genetic mutation. Alas, “The Darkest Minds” struggles in vain to find much of anything not already done earlier and better.
In an attempt to lend support to a young, relatively unknown – albeit promising – cast, a formidable group of adult supporting actors is sprinkled throughout. These include Bradley Whitford, Mandy Moore, Wallace Langham, and Wade Williams – even if you may not recognize their names, their faces will be immediately familiar.
Suffice it to say that “The Darkest Minds” trudges through a tired plotline, with very little new to offer. The film is not much more than a watered down version of other superior dystopian future sagas – here again, with the all-too-obvious goal of setting up a series of sequels. Based on the quality of this first outing, however, there may not be any follow-ups.
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