The Darkest Minds (2 stars)

The Darkest Minds

Underwhelming YA adaptation following a group of kids with superpowers

After The Hunger Games, Divergent and numerous other young adult books that have made it to the big screen, The Darkest Minds arrives like the real runt of the litter. While it originates from the mind of novelist Alexandra Bracken, such is the derivative nature of the plot – which sees a group of kids with superpowers pursued by government forces – you could easily believe it was designed by committee across a studio boardroom.

Directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson, who makes her live-action debut after helming the second and third Kung Fu Panda animations, it does boast rising star Amandla Stenberg in the lead; Stenberg featured in the first Hunger Games film and will soon be seen in police shooting drama The Hate U Give. Here she plays Ruby Daly, a girl who has developed powerful mind control abilities (think Ben Kenobi with adolescent angst). With colours used to categorise such kids, she's classed as an extremely rare 'Orange'.

After a prologue featuring a convulsing child in a school cafeteria, we learn that a pandemic called IAAN wiped out 98% of the world's children. The remainder developed X-Men-esque powers and, just like Marvel's mutants, they are distrusted by parents and authorities alike. On the run, Ruby hooks up with a bunch of fellow kids – Liam (Harris Dickinson), Zu (Miya Cech) and Chubs (Skylan Brooks) – as they scramble for safety.

Yuh Nelson and screenwriter Chad Hodge play with some chilling ideas (a mass child wipeout, for starters) without ever really conveying the horror. Instead, there's PG-rated romance between Ruby and Liam, an extended cameo from Mandy Moore as a not-quite-to-be-trusted doctor and a lot of soul-searching from our heroine. With the exception of some edgy war-time scenes, this is eminently forgettable. It'll be no surprise to learn that the book on which The Darkest Minds is based is the first part of a series; although it feels more like a franchise-opener than a stand-alone feature, we won't hold our breath for a sequel.

General release from Fri 10 Aug.

The Darkest Minds

  • 2 stars
  • 2018
  • US
  • 1h 43min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Jennifer Yuh Nelson
  • Cast: Mandy Moore, Amandla Stenberg, Gwendoline Christie
  • UK release: 10 August 2018

When a pandemic wipes out 98% of the world’s children, the remainder develop X-Men -esque powers and—guess what—are distrusted by parents and authorities. Numbingly derivative and eminently forgettable YA action flick which entirely fails to grapple with the potential horror; supposedly a franchise-opener, but don’t be…