Film Review: THE DARKEST MINDS (USA 2018)

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The Darkest Minds Poster

Imprisoned by an adult world that now fears everyone under 18, a group of teens form a resistance group to fight back and reclaim control of their future.


Chad Hodge (screenplay by), Alexandra Bracken (based upon the novel by)


The first of a trilogy, THE DARKEST MINDS is a young adult sci-fi action movie similar to films like the THE HUNGER GAMES, DIVERGENT series that made a whole lot of money for Lionsgate.  20th Century Fox (or Disney for that matter) obviously hopes for the same.  But THE DARKEST MINDS is quite the disappointment.

The premise  involves a devastating disease abbreviated IAAN, whatever it stands for.  

98% of the children are dead and the 2% surviving develop powers that no one understands.  The audience witnesses only one of these deaths though millions have occurred in the world in a school cafeteria of all places.  The film gets worse.  Poor African American Ruby (Amandla Stenberg) sees the poor girl die and the film suddenly focuses on Ruby.  Ruby has some powers that cause her to be taken, again like all the other children in the world to concentration camp like hospital centres to be cured of the powers.  Apparently the government wants to harvest these powers for their own army to fight against …..?  This part is never explained.  There are several levels of powers possessed by children, colour coded.  Ruby is orange which means she has the rare highest of the powers and those with orange are to be eliminated by death – a case of adults scared of the unknown.  (The future is orange!  Joke for the British.)

   One can hardly blame director Nelson whose other credits are the two KUNG FU PANDA animated features which were not half bad.  So one could blame the source martial or the kind of film she had been instructed to direct.  Based on the story described, THE DARKEST MINDS could be a real scary horror/satire involving the end of the world.  Instead, it turns out to be young adult fantasy that despite a few good ideas (like the colour coded powers) no one believes in.  

The film poses lots of unanswered questions.  Questions like: Why do all the parents not care about their children?  How did the disease originate?  What is the reason for the superpowers?  The synopsis in wikipedia describes a vicious bounty hunt by the name of Lady Jane which only appears briefly in the film.  The character must have been either edited out of the film or perhaps she appears in the sequel.

It is hard to describe the film’s best scene as there are none.  The film’s worst scene has the two leads declare their love for each other in a long 5 minute sequence that keeps them babbling sweet nothings to the audience’s yawns.

To the director’s credit, the film was made on a modest $38 million, looks acceptable and probably satisfies the studios.  She has some good images on screen, like the raised coloured hands at the end of the film signalling sequels to come.  I would like to quote a line used by the late Toronto film critic, John Harkness from NOW Magazine to describe the Hulk Hogan film he hated: “Recommended for backward children.”, a line that got him into a lot of trouble for writing, but for obvious reasons I will not use it for this film.  THE DARKEST MINDS shows a little promise and is interesting in certain parts, but could have been a much better start of the trilogy.



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Movie Review: KUNG FU PANDA 3 (2016)

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kung_fu_panda_3KUNG FU PANDA 3 (USA/China 2016) ***
Directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson and Alessandro Carloni

Starring: Jack Black, Bryan Cranston, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, J.K. Simmons, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu

Review by Gilbert Seah

The third of the KUNG FU PANDA animated features provides more of the same. However, being family fun entertainment, critics should not be too hard on the filmmakers. As long as KUNG FU PANDA delivers a safe product, everyone especially a less discerning audience should not complain.

The first one in the series that is a Chinese co-production, Fox obviously has an eye for the large Chinese market. There is a Chinese version with Chinese dubbed voices. The previous two films grossed more than $600 million each and this $120 million production should beat those records. To be super safe, the script by Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger have added many more pandas into the film – in the form of a secret panda sanctuary.

Po finally gets to meet his real biological father in this film. The segment of their meeting, as shown in a promotional clip before is the funniest of the film. Of course, his adoptive father, Mr. Ping (James Hong) the goose who wants to open his own dumpling stall is incredibly jealous. Po is brought to a Panda sanitary where he trains panda students in martial-arts. Po also meets Mei Mei, an overly eager panda, who had been promised to Po through an arranged marriage when they were children. But the main plot involves an evil ancient supernatural spirit called Kai begins terrorizing China and stealing the powers of defeated kung fu masters. Now in the face of incredible odds, Po must learn to train the village of clumsy, fun-loving pandas to become a band of Kung Fu Pandas.

Added to the film are new characters like Po’s (Jack Black) biological father, Li Shan (Bryan Cranston) and Mei Mei (a brilliant Kate Hudson), a female panda who has the hots for Po. Hudson does a marvellous job resulting in the audience wanting to see more of Mei Mei. The villain of the piece is Kai (Oscar winning J.J. Simmons) who adds a some humour to his role. His voice is easily recognized from the low tones. The usually Po gang is still present. So, for those KUNG FU PANDA fans, Viper (Lucy Liu), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Crane (David Cross) and even Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) are back.

The climatic fight between Po and Kai is ok but nothing too exciting nor out of the ordinary. But the antics of Po is enough to entertain despite the relatively weak plot.

The Chinese influence in this entry is clearly evident. There is more oriental folklore, more oriental colours and more oriental architectural drawings. This entry is also the most colourful of the three with the animation at its peak. The ‘Kung Fu Fighting’ song is also given a Chinese slant. Hans Zimmer hits with the overall musical score.

KUNG FU PANDA 3 should be a big hit. At the end of the promo screening, kids can be seen in front of the screen imitating the martial-arts moves of their hero, Po.


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