Jennifer Yuh Nelson (director)
10 August 2018 (released)
Some may wonder if this will ever end? With the Twilight, Hunger Games and Maze Runner films spanning some 10 years, it’s fair to ponder if there’s much mileage left in these YA novel adaptations. Seeing as there is an almost an inexhaustible supply of YAs presumably eager to read the books and see the films, and possibly a desire to possess their own series rather than just hark back to past series, its seems likely that these will continue for some time to come. The latest is Alexandra Bracken’s The Darkest Minds which is the first to be adapted from the collection.
Plot wise the world’s children have been struck down with a disease that killed most but left the survivors with powers that range from enhanced mental abilities, control of electricity through telekinetic and telepathic powers to flame throwers. Their eyes change colour when the powers are used and as the children are perceived as a threat, they have been rounded up and put into camps. However the most lethal - oranges and reds - are just killed.
Ruby (Amanda Stenberg – and who appeared in The Hunger Games) survives the epidemic but is now an ‘orange’ with telepathic powers who uses that power to manipulate her examiner into believing she is a ‘green’ and super-clever, thus not quite as dangerous.
Put into a rehabilitation camp with all the ‘safe’ colours Ruby is discovered and escapes. She meets and befriends Chubs, Liam and Zu each having different abilities. They set forth for East River, a safe haven led by the ‘Slip Kid’ and a place that their kind can live in peace and harmony. On their quest they encounter the usual rogue groups, other organisations with their own interests, and bounty hunters. There is even time for romance between Ruby and Liam.
Getting to their Shangri-La they find it is an idyll and the leader is a surprise. Trouble is after a while Slip Kid turns out to be not be the character they expected – though if they had the wherewithal they would have spotted that as soon as they met them. This naturally leads to confrontations, treachery, double crosses, big battles and the obvious play for a sequel.
Notwithstanding the cynicism of adapting a book that has a certain audience, in the knowledge that that audience may well be interested in seeing how their favourite book has been treated, there is the shocking paucity of effort here from the filmmakers and writers.
There’s a slick gleaming direction from Jennifer Yuh Nelson. It’s competent debut but from someone involved with the Kung Fu Panda series, we should expect a bit more. She is not helped by a lumpen script of such tired phrases and clichés that sympathy starts so set in with the cast speaking the words. There’s only so many times that someone can be referred to as a green or a blue without the giggles setting in.
The actors as a collective actually aren’t bad just weighed down with a lot of clumsy set ups and scenes – the excruciating dance sequence for one. As such they totally fail to engage the audience, cultivate any sympathy leading to a dull tensionless film.
There’s obviously a target audience here and this writer isn’t it. But even so there is a tiredness about this entire project that suggests the model may have to be looked at, and soon.