Where to even begin with this movie? “The Darkest Minds” is the first part of a possible series that might not even get off the ground if the movie-going public never gets to see it. This is part of a craze that wants people clamoring for something unique and original, but within certain set parameters of originality.
For example, “The Gifted,” a new show on the Fox network, deals with mutants with other-worldly abilities. It’s an interesting premise with a pretzel-twisting storyline that has viewers returning each week to see what happens. The cast of “The Darkest Minds” contains some familiar faces. Amandla Stenberg of “Everything Everything” and “The Hunger Games” portrays Ruby who is sent to the orange faction. She has some amazing supernatural abilities, including the erasing of memories and the ability of persuasion.
Mandy Moore’s Cate persona is a doctor at the place where Ruby is held prisoner. Cate is forced to work a thankless job for her sheer survival. Moore may be best known for her role in 2002’s “A Walk to Remember,” written by Nicholas Sparks and “Tangled,” the 2010 animated Disney tale about Rapunzel and her magical hair.
In one scene of “The Darkest Minds,” Ruby returns home and peers through the window. She doesn’t set a foot in the house and just walks away without any answers. Ruby becomes friends with her peers. Of course, there is a love interest in Harris Dickinson’s Liam, an older gentleman who starts a certain kinship with Rudy. It is nice to see her relationships develop with Zu (Mya Cech) and fellow friend Chubs (Skylan Brooks).
The director for this live-action dystopian tale is Jennifer Yuh Nelson. She has been in the business for more than 20 years and received an Oscar nomination for directing “Kung-Fu Panda 2” as well as prime time Emmys for directing the animated “Spawn” TV series in 1999. The trouble is that adults in this movie are seen as some sort of liability or evil force. The pacing in “The Darkest Minds” is not brisk, but just putters along until it ends in pure mediocrity. The big reveal at the end of the film feels like a cheat to the audience. I’m sorry, but why do all dystopian tales end in such disdain and misery? I wanted so much more out of this movie, but like the disappointment that was Chris Weitz’s 2007 “The Golden Compass,” I left feeling unfulfilled.