Based on Alexandra Bracken’s YA novel, The Darkest Minds is set in a world where 90% of children have been wiped out. The fascist government rounds up the surviving youths, fearful because they all suddenly possess psychic abilities. Escaping a brutal internment camp, powerful 16-year-old Ruby (Amandla Stenberg) teams up with electricity-wielding Zu (an underutilised Miya Cech), uber-brainy comedy sidekick Chubs (Skylan Brooks), and telekinetic, charisma-free block of wood Liam (Harris Dickinson).
The super-charged quartet set off in search of a fabled sanctuary, after a rushed information-dump of a set-up, from a script not bothered with wasting time on character or world-building. A shame, as it’s a sci-fi story full of potential. Dashed with dollops of Divergent and extracts of X-Men, it’s a tale heavy on influences, but light on originality, with a villain obvious from the off. Kung Fu Panda 2 and 3 director Jennifer Yuh Nelson makes the transition from animated to live-action with some solid set-pieces, in a dystopian-light, teen-superhero tale, more reminiscent of Percy Jackson than The Dark Knight. Some lame humour, a dull romance, but none of the dark, socio-political underpinnings of The Hunger Games.
It’s great to see a multiracial cast front and centre, but a shame to see Bradley Whitford wasted in a minor role as President, and Gwendoline Christie briefly appear as a bounty hunter in a bad wig. Caught somewhere between silly and serious, The Darkest Minds is a generic, late entry in the Young Adult sci-fi genre, which takes itself way too seriously to be a comedy. Ultimately forgettable, under-developed, yet undoubtedly entertaining for early teens.