The Darkest Minds, C
Rated PG-13, 105 minutes
The new Young Adult thriller "The Darkest Minds" is nothing new - it's really "The Hunger Games" with colors - but its handsome young cast provide some captivating moments. While it's far from dull, it's something that you've seen before.
When teens mysteriously develop powerful new abilities, they are seen as a threat by the government and sent to detainment camps. Sixteen-year-old Ruby ("The Hunger Games'" Amandla Stenberg) soon escapes from her captors and joins other runaways with special powers, including Liam (Harris Dickinson), Chubs (Skylan Brooks), and Zu (Miya Cech) who are seeking a safe haven. Banded together and on the run, they soon combine their collective powers to fight the adults who tried to take away their future.
The bland yet modestly entertaining dystopian drama "The Darkest Minds" is directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson ("Kung Fu Panda 2 and 3") and written by "Wayward Pines'" Chad Hodge and based on the best-selling "The Darkest Mind" YA book series by Jennifer Bracken. On that note, "The Darkest Minds" seems to be capitalizing on a genre whose glory days seems behind them (I mean, it seems so 2012 or 2013). Still, the film is well-made and lovely to look at, with handsome photography from Kramer Morgenthau ("Thor: The Dark World") and an even better alt-rock soundtrack, with a fantastic title song called "Revolution" from rock group Unsecret (featuring Ruelle).
Stenberg, a "Hunger Games" alum herself, is an engaging lead, and she has warm chemistry with Dickinson, Cech and stealing most of his scenes as Chub, played by "The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete's" Brooks, who some of the film's funniest lines ("you caught me looking at this lake, I've officially become my grandmother," he says).
The abilities of the young people are never quite fleshed out here and we don't know how exactly how they came to be in this outing - and yes, it leaves it open for more - which is a tad frustrating given the film revolves around those special powers. But it has some nice messages regarding family, segregation and the racial divides our country currently faces. Watch for "This is Us's" Mandy Moore and "Get Out's" Bradley Whitford in small but key roles as a couple of the adults, who may or may not be on the right side.
This is a blander, junior league "Hunger Games" with a touch of "Maze Runner" and countless other YA dystopian films with similar themes, and Nelson seems to purposefully and frustratingly leave details out in hopes of another film. Still, the cast and serviceable production values give "The Darkest Minds" a notch or two above most in this genre, and it will be the young set to get the most out of it.