From Jennifer Yuh, the director of Kung Fu Panda 2 and Kung Fu Panda 3, comes her first live-action feature The Darkest Minds. Based on Alexandra Bracken’s young adult dystopian novel, the sci-fi/fantasy thriller film follows a state-oppressed group of teenagers who form a resistance group to fight back and reclaim control of their future and lives, following the formulaic path explored by many other young adult adaptation franchises such as The Hunger Games, Divergent and The Maze Runner.
After a mysterious disease wipes off 90% of American children, the ones who survived the plague are found to develop powerful abilities. The government, declaring them a threat to society, detains these special children in camps to be monitored and controlled, and classifies their abilities according to the colour of their eyes: green (enhanced intelligence), blue (telekinesis), gold (electrokinesis), red (pyrokinetic) and orange (mind control).
Sixteen-year-old Ruby Daly (Amandla Stenberg) is an Orange who has been confined by the government for six years and, one day, escapes with the help from Dr. Cate Connor (Mandy Moore). After breaking out of the camp, Ruby stumbles upon three other runaway teens like herself – Liam (Harris Dickinson), a handsome Blue who soon becomes Ruby’s love interest; Zu (Miya Cech), a young, compassionate Gold; and Chubs (Skylan Brooks), a geeky Green. She joins the trio in search for a safe haven called the East River, which is run by the elusive Slip Kid.
While the diverse cast and colourful characters certainly add to the entertainment value of the film, the slow pacing and predictability of the storyline – not to mention its melodramatic romance clichés – appear to undermine the film’s potential. The Darkest Minds begins with fairly intriguing premise, but stumbles to deliver a coherent, compelling adaption of Bracken’s novel, relying much on exposition-heavy voiceovers and dialogues while sparing little time on building a focused and logical plot for audience who have not read the book - on which it is based.
Nonetheless, despite the disjointed film narrative, there are some well-produced action sequences and special effects as well as a nice chemistry between the four main characters that layers the movie with a lightheartedness that is unexpected from the title. The strong performances of the cast, thus, elevate the movie as a whole, making it a worthwhile watch for fans of the book series.
The Darkest Minds is now playing in cinemas nationwide, starring Amandla Stenberg (also starred in The Hunger Games), Harris Dickinson (from Beach Rats), Skylan Brooks (who starred in The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete), and Miya Cech (from the TV series American Horror Story).
Calling all Twentieth Century FOX movie fans!
Are you a big fan of sci-fi thriller movies? Catch The Predator and Alita: Battle Angel in cinemas over the coming months. If you’re looking for something a little different, the upcoming Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody will definitely be an interesting watch.