'The Darkest Minds' offers positive message about tolerance

NEW YORK — A strong sense of deja vu hovers over "The Darkest Minds" (Fox), a dystopian thriller about gifted teens running for their lives.

Echoes of other sci-fi series abound in Chad Hodge's script (based on Alexandra Bracken's best-selling novel), from "X-Men" and "The Hunger Games" to "Divergent" and "The Maze Runner."

Even Harry Potter makes the cut. When the heroine, Ruby (Amandla Stenberg), admires her new home in a teen commune, she declares, "This is like Hogwarts!"

Not surprisingly, the end result is derivative and predictable. Although there is a positive message about tolerance, the dark and ultraviolent tone places this film firmly out of reach for younger viewers.

Sometime in the future (naturally), a pandemic has devastated society (of course), killing 98 percent of the children. The few who survive have superhuman powers (what else?).

Needless to say, the adults in authority are the baddies (a given in this film genre). They separate the kids from their parents and confine them in camps.

There they are categorized via a color code, from the Greens, gentle and super-smart, to the Reds, uncontrollable pyromaniacs. In between are the Blues, who move objects via telekinesis, and the Golds, who generate electric fields.

Then there are the Oranges, the rarest of telepaths, who can read and influence minds. There are only two Oranges left in the whole wide world: 16-year-old Ruby, and Clancy Gray (Patrick Gibson), who happens to be the son of the wicked U.S. president (Bradley Whitford).

"The Darkest Minds" follows a familiar path when that rare kindly adult, Dr. Cate Connor (Mandy Moore), recognizes Ruby's uniqueness and helps her escape her imprisonment. The physician is part of a resistance movement seeking to fight a kind of institutional apartheid.

But Ruby suspects the doctor may be up to no good, and runs away. She encounters a ragtag bunch of fellow fugitives, including Liam (Harris Dickinson), a Blue; Zu (Miya Cech), a Gold; and Chubs (Skylan Brooks), a Green.

Together they hope to find a teen-run safe haven called (for no apparent reason) East River, evading bounty hunters like Lady Jane (Gwendoline Christie) along the way.

Director Jennifer Yuh Nelson ("Kung Fu Panda 2") keeps the action flowing as our intrepid teens tackle adversity (and the requisite romance). The climax involves numerous cliff-hangers, anticipating the inevitable sequel.

The film contains intense scenes of bloodless violence, including torture, as well as several crude and a couple of crass terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.