By Gregg Shapiro
Photo: 20th Century Fox
“The Hunger Games” have been won. The “Divergent” series was diverted. The insipid and humiliating (2nd) film adaptation of “A Wrinkle in Time” was anything but smooth. So, who thought “The Darkest Minds” (20th Century Fox), a movie version of the Alexandra Bracken Y/A novel of the same name, would be a good idea?
Essentially, “The Darkest Minds” is 105 minutes of set-up for a proposed series. Managing to be too much, too little, too late, “The Darkest Minds” features mediocre special effects and a serious lack of original ideas. Making matters worse is that the derivative screenplay is by Chad Hodge, an out gay man. Seriously, we expect better from our queer brethren.
In an unspecified future, children and adolescents are rounded up and put into concentration camps due to their special powers where they are ranked, and sometimes eliminated, by color. Green are smart, blue are telekinetic, orange have mind-control abilities and the most-feared red are fire-makers. President Gray (Bradley Whitford), whose son Clancy (Patrick Gibson) is in the orange category, tries to make an example of his son, putting him through all sorts of painful treatments.
Most of those in the orange group are put to death. However, orange Ruby (Amandla Stenberg) is spared when Cate (Mandy Moore), a doctor affiliated with an underground rescue organization known as The League, realizes her true identity and helps her escape. Nevertheless, Ruby has her doubts about Cate. When an opportunity arises, she flees and teams up with others also on the run, including Liam (the dreamy Harris Dickinson who was exceptional in the 2017 gay-themed film “Beach Rats”), Chubs (Skylan Brooks) and Zu (Miya Cech).
The quartet sets out on the journey to meet up with the legendary Slip Kid who is said to have created a safe space for people like them. Ruby, however, is determined not to reveal her true identity as an orange. Along the way they encounter ruthless tracker Lady Jane (Gwendoline Christie), as well as a fearless foursome, like them, inhabiting an abandoned mall. When they finally reach the encampment, and meet the Slip Kid, who, as you might have guessed, is actually Clancy (!), they discover that not everything is as it seems. Clancy, who has designs on Ruby’s mind (and body), is in cahoots with evil military man The Captain (Wade Williams), leading to an epic battle between Ruby and Clancy.
Bear in mind, at the time that Bracken’s novel was written, the idea of children being ripped from their families and placed in internment camps was unthinkable. The fact that it’s happening now, and 20th Century Fox decided to release this junk into theaters is, frankly, unspeakable.
If you don’t “mind” the feeling of déjà vu, because we’ve seen most of this before, then “The Darkest Minds” is for you.
Rating: 1 peach