The Darkest Minds: Hopeless adaptation of a book you’ve never heard of

Review: This bewildering film feels mercilessly edited by a studio that lost interest

A fine young cast are let down by a poor film

Film Title: The Darkest Minds

Director: Jennifer Yuh Nelson

Starring: Amandla Stenberg, Mandy Moore, Bradley Whitford, Harris Dickinson, Patrick Gibson

Genre: Action

Running Time: 103 min

Thu, Aug 9, 2018, 05:00

   

We’ve seen some generic dystopian YA fantasies recently – that mad Maze Runner thing, that awful Divergent debacle – but this hopeless adaptation of some book you’ve never heard of breaks new ground in its determination not to surprise. 

I’ve said it before. I hope I won’t have to say it again. But the oddest aspect of these stories is the awkward clash between arguments for individuality – “be yourself” – and a determination to break the young characters into blocs. The districts in The Hunger Games. The factions in Divergent. Lord help any young fan who has no desire to be a joiner.

Anyway, the latest entry to a dying genre imagines a world in which a mysterious disease grants special powers to those affected. As is eventually the case in most universes that allow superheroes (think Marvel: Civil War, The Incredibles and Watchmen), the authorities clamp down on the mutants. Here this takes the form of midnight arrests and detention in camps where they are broken into colour-coded groups.

Trailer

Young Ruby Daly (Amandla Stenberg) is identified as an “Orange” – among the most gifted of factions – and told that she must now wear a bowler hat and bash a big drum all summer. Ha ha! That’s just a little joke I made to help sustain the will to live.

They try to kill her, but she escapes and makes friends with rebellious Blues, Reds and Greens. Sadly, she makes friends with nobody rebellious enough to admit no categorisation.

Much is bewildering in a violent film that feels mercilessly trimmed from once-wider cloth. Where did this disease come from? Why does Mandy Moore vanish for the inner three fifths of the story? What class of apocalypse has engulfed the wider world?

There is a sense of the studio throwing up its hands at an enterprise that began to stink sometime before the final day of shooting. This is unfortunate for a consistently fine young cast. Stenberg is still going places. Skylan Brooks is delightful as her quirkiest pal. But please draw no more water from this stagnant well.

Opens: August 10th