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|The Darkest Minds|
dir Jennifer Yuh Nelson
scr Chad Hodge
prd Dan Levine, Shawn Levy
with Amandla Stenberg, Harris Dickinson, Mandy Moore, Patrick Gibson, Skylan Brooks, Miya Cech, Bradley Whitford, Gwendoline Christie, Wade Williams, Lidya Jewett, Golden Brooks, Sammi Rotibi
release US 3.Aug.18, UK 10.Aug.18
18/US Fox 1h44
Kindred spirits: Stenberg and Dickinson
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
An unoriginal premise and lacklustre filmmaking mean that this teen-dystopia adventure is unlikely to spark a franchise based on Alexandra Bracken's (so far) five-novel series. This film includes each young adult fiction cliche, from a preternaturally talented young women to the two hot boys she has to choose between. Thankfully, the cast is solid enough to hold the attention, even if the writing and directing continually treat the audience like idiots.
When a disease kills 98 percent of adolescents, the government locks up surviving teens, who have superpowers ranked from green to red. As a powerful orange, 16-year-old Ruby (Stenberg) knows she needs to hide, and she doesn't trust the doctor (Moore) who helps her escape. So she runs off with Liam (Dickinson) and his pals Chubs and Zu (Brooks and Cech), fleeing from both the government Captain (Williams) and bounty hunter Jane (Christie). But things get complicated when they find a teen camp run by Clancy (Gibson), rebel son of the US president (Whitford).
There's potential in the premise, but director Nelson and writer Hodge take such an over-important tone that the story becomes corny. The dialog and events are almost painfully obvious, so the plot's various twists fail to be surprising. Action set-pieces are violent but unthreatening, drama is deeply earnest, romance is weepy. There's no space here for anything that feels even vaguely authentic, simply because it's such a well-worn formula.
Stenberg does her best to anchor the film, providing some earthy determination, usually with tears trickling down her cheeks. But she can't overcome the trite dialog. By contrast, Dickinson manages to bring a sense of offhanded life to the screen, never obviously Acting with a capital A. So Liam is much easier to identify with. Brooks and Cech are fine in support, while Gibson reveals nice shadows under his pretty boy physicality. But Moore struggles with her character's pushy emotionality.
Basically, this film needed to strike a much more creative tone than this, telling the story in a way that's edgy and urgent. Because as is, this feels like a mishmash of movies we've already seen, like The Hunger Games populated by X-Men. But the real problem is that there's no subtext, no sense that we're seeing a story with parallels in the present day, and no larger themes or compelling relationships. It's just another fable about pretty teens struggling with love and family as the apocalypse breaks out around them.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2018 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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