Review: Teen cliches pile up in generic 'Darkest Minds'

Amandla Stenberg and Harris Dickinson star in this teen lit adaptation that quickly fades from memory

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic
Skylan Brooks, Miya Cech, Amandla Stenberg and Harris Dickinson in "The Darkest Minds."

In "The Darkest Minds," lead character Ruby (Amandla Stenberg) has the ability to wipe the memories of those around her.  

It's a service theaters should consider offering to moviegoers exiting showings of this blandly casted, ploddingly paced teen lit adaptation. 

Not that this vanilla retread of genre cliches -- call it "Divergent Maze Runners of the 5th Wave" -- lingers long on the mind anyway.  

Based on Alexandra Bracken's 2012 novel, the first chapter in her six-part "Darkest Minds" series, the film opens in a near-future where a mysterious illness has wiped out 98 percent of children under 20. 

The survivors have developed various powers -- mind control, the ability to shoot lightning bolts from their hands, etc. -- and are rounded up in government camps and assigned a color group according to their abilities. 

Ruby is the rarest of all cases, an "Orange," and her psychic powers make her a highly valuable, highly dangerous commodity. 

She breaks away from her camp and teams up with a rogue crew, led by Liam (Harris Dickinson), and they head off in search of a secret community of teens who are leading a rebellion. 

As if the threat of being caught by roving bounty hunters weren't enough, Ruby and her friends must also deal with their raging teen hormones. Is Liam going to kiss her or not, you guys? The big moment is teased so many times it becomes a running gag. 

Directed like a CW pilot by Jennifer Yuh Nelson ("Kung Fu Pandas" 2 and 3), "The Darkest Minds" is in desperate need of a spark, any spark. References to "Watership Down" and "Harry Potter" only serve to show how far this film is from the classics it admires.

(313) 222-2284


'The Darkest Minds'


Rated PG-13 for violence including disturbing images, and thematic elements

Running time: 105 minutes