Kung Fu Panda 2 director Jennifer Yuh Nelson has moved swiftly into the live action genre in a production aimed strictly at a teenage market.
A movie about teenagers with special powers, and how the authorities attempt to curb them, is not new and has been used as a theme countless times. In this instance, America is facing a disease that has wiped out 98% of the world’s children.
Survivors, with special abilities, are rounded up and dispatched to government controlled concentration camps for rehabilitation. Here heavily armed “tracers” are given the task of hunting down the few who manage to escape.
The Darkest Minds is a teen fantasy thriller which centres on a group of teenagers who escape the camps and try to survive using their powers. It travels a predictable path, where they are pitted against an army of armed adults.
These teens band together to fight the system and, in the process, find a common goal. They form a rich mix of races and genders.
Different colours represent the varying super powers. African-American Amandla Stenberg, who made her name in The Hunger Games, plays Ruby, a 16-year-old with abilities she’s still learning to control. She is a dangerous Orange who can put thoughts into people’s minds and manipulate their actions.
Then there is Zu (Miya Cech), a young Asian-American who can harness electricity; the brilliant Chubs (Skylan Brooks) is a Green, a bad iteration of a well-worn theme can super-brain who helps the crew make plans and solve puzzles; and the oldest is Liam (Harris Dickinson), a white Blue capable of moving objects with his mind — and of stirring Ruby’s affections with his clumsy attempts at courtship.
Also among the small number of survivors is the president’s son, Clancy Gray (Patrick Gibson), who heads a camp in the forest that protects others of his ilk. He is an Orange and a powerful entity.
Based on the first book in Alexandra Bracken’s young adult trilogy, this action movie is not ashamed to borrow nearly all its inspiration from other popular sci-fi franchises, ranging from X-Men to Stranger Things. At one stage, the two romantic leads, Ruby and Liam, talk about feeling like characters in a Harry Potter movie.
The narrative fails to answer relevant questions concerning how parents feel about losing their children, the reactions of the populace to how the authorities separate and execute the survivors and how and why the survivors suddenly develop special abilities, ranging from telekinesis to mind control? It’s not a bad movie, but its lack of originality works against it.