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‘The Darkest Minds’ is essentially the leftover smorgasbord of teenage dystopian films

August 3, 2018

We’ve all been there: you look in the refrigerator and all that’s there is Monday’s leftover tater tot casserole, scraps of Tuesday night’s chicken, the remainder of Wednesday’s hot dogs, and a container of mystery cuisine that doesn’t look overly appealing, but isn’t growing anything, so it becomes one of the courses in a leftover buffet.

Liam (Harris Dickinson), Chubs (Skylan Brooks), Ruby (Amanda Stenberg), and Zu (Miya Cech) in Twentieth Century Fox’s “The Darkest Minds.” (Photo credit: Daniel McFadden; TM & © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved. Not for sale or duplication.)

That, for lack of any better way to explain it, is how I feel about “The Darkest Minds,” director Jennifer Yuh Nelson’s adaptation of Alexandra Bracken’s novel.

 

A mysterious (and barely referenced beyond the first act) virus called Idiopathic Adolescent Acute Neurodegeneration (IAAN) has attacked the human population, killing virtually every child under the age of 20.

 

But it’s not the virus that has people worried, it’s the survivors, who (somehow) develop mutant-lite powers ranging from the manipulation of electricity to telekinesis. The survivors are rounded up and placed into internment camps, where they’re segregated by their abilities, so they can’t cause further harm to the world.

 

Among the survivors is Ruby (Amandla Stenberg), whose powers are greater, and deemed more dangerous, than most of the others. After several years of hiding amongst the less powerful children, Ruby is discovered and marked for death.

 

Gaining some help from the inside, Ruby escapes, but soon finds out that things on the outside aren’t a whole lot better. She ends up joining forces with a small band of her fellow survivors – Liam (Harris Dickinson), Chubs (Skylan Brooks), and Zu (Miya Cech) – who are looking for a camp that has been set up for the surviving children by a mysterious (and powerful) escapee.

Zu (Miya Cech), Ruby (Amanda Stenberg), Liam (Harris Dickinson) and Chubs (Skylan Brooks) enter an abandoned mall in Twentieth Century Fox’s “The Darkest Minds.” (Photo credit: Daniel McFadden; TM & © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved. Not for sale or duplication.)

While that description might sound *slightly* different than anything you’ve seen, when you actually see it play out on the big screen, you feel like you’re watching outtakes from previous young adult novel adaptations.

 

“The Darkest Minds” felt like they took the worst parts of “The Giver,” “The 5th Wave,” “Divergent,” and “The Hunger Games,” threw them into a blender and created some sort of gray, bland, theatrical smoothie that shouldn’t be consumed by anyone not involved with the production. Oh, and then they gave the smoothie the worst X-Men powers imaginable to serve as the cherry on top.

 

The acting, particularly from the adults and/or villains, ranges anywhere from hackneyed to unwatchable.

 

There’s special effect, but I can’t imagine anyone’s overly proud of them – some CGI fire and lightning, some telekinetic floating, and a handful of visual effects that are about as effective as star wipe on Ned Flanders’ dating tape.

 

In terms of story, there’s really not much to speak of in terms of originality – bad stuff happens, then worse stuff happens, then the children rise up, then there’s double and triple crosses, and then we fade to black on a boring cliffhanger that’s only set up to lead to the next film in the series.

 

I’d be beyond shocked if that next film comes to fruition. Like, “President Logan Paul” shocked.

Ruby (Amanda Stenberg), and Liam (Harris Dickinson) in Twentieth Century Fox’s “The Darkest Minds.” (Photo credit: Daniel McFadden; TM & © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved. Not for sale or duplication.)

 

Obviously, I’m not the target demo here – I’m not young, I’m not a very good adult, and I’ve never read Bracken’s series. But I know quite a few people that would definitely fit into the target group, and I can’t imagine any of them liking this movie.

 

If you want to watch teenagers rising up and raging against authority, you’d be better-served tracking down a copy of “Tomorrow, When the War Began,” or even “The Thinning.” The latter features the aforementioned future President Paul, so you know just how bad “The Darkest Minds” actually is … it’s the week-old goulash of movies.

 

★ of ★★★★★