“Divergent,” “Twilight,” “The Hunger Games,” “The Maze Runner” — if you’ve seen one young adult film, you’ve seen them all, and “The Darkest Minds” is the latest copycat entry into the crowded cinema genre. This generic “X-Men” rip-off features teenage mutants who are detained in camps after the government decides they’re a threat, with the most powerful among them being killed on site.
Heroine Ruby (Amandla Stenberg) is one of these super rare, top level mutants who escapes with the help of a member of an underground resistance (Mandy Moore). When Ruby begins to doubt the motives of her rescuer, she flees with dreamboat Liam (Harris Dickinson) and his buddies (Skylan Brooks, Miya Cech) who are seeking a rumored safe haven.
The story, based on the novel by Alexandra Bracken, covers no new ground. It’s predictable to a fault, and the love story feels hokey. The acting from the principals is better than adequate, but it’s the supporting players who deliver their lines with an unintentional laugh-out-loud clunkiness.
Several subplots are resolved too quickly which makes the film seem rushed. Ruby and Liam’s forced romance storyline is squarely aimed at making 14 year olds swoon. Clearly this is a film that’s made for early teenaged girls, and there’s nothing wrong with that. If you consider the audience for this one, you’ll come to realize it’s not that awful.
There are countless activism messages thrown in, from resisting male dominance to rising up against society’s oppressors to promoting advocacy for equality. No doubt the ambitions are high, but the film falls short (especially in its non-ending ending, which resolves nothing as the story simply stops).
In the end, nothing can overcome the feeling of a dystopian déjà vu. If only a little imagination had been thrown in to stir things up.