YouTube has attempted to revive interest in YA franchises with their original film series The Thinning. In The Thinning: New World Order, the first sequel in the series, the plot thickens as a country-wide intelligence test is further examined in a futuristic dystopia. The annual quiz, which is supposed to be moderating America’s steep population by eliminating the lowest-scoring students, is revealed to have a bias that’s connected to the country’s presidential election.
The franchise, which is available through YouTube’s exclusive Premium membership, would seem as if its biting off more than it can chew if wasn’t so obvious that its core concern is entertaining a young at-home crowd. Namely those who can spot the online stars appearing in major roles, such as Lia Marie Johnson who can be seen in YouTube’s popular Teens React videos and the platform’s controversial icon Logan Paul.
Paul headlines the series as the film’s hero Blake, son of crooked Texan governor Dean Redding (The Wedding Singer’s Matthew Glave). The choice to cast Logan Paul in a leading role is problematic, especially as of late. On the small screen, he was disgraced globally this past year for offensive videos documenting a trip to Japan (including a now infamous visit to Aokigahara, the “suicide forest”). Before then, he incited a mob at a public convention, and he’s been heavily criticized for how he markets his videos to an impressionable young audience. I’m not saying someone has to have a clean slate to be qualified to act, but it would help if Paul could counter this reputation with surprising leading man qualities. As an actor, his range is flat and he’s only engaging through his fit physique – a visible attribute director Michael J. Gallagher takes full advantage of during fight choreography. There’s a silly detour in New World Order built around after-hours caged brawls that only seems to exist to get Logan Paul shirtless.
But, I admit, mid-way through New World Order, I was really getting wrapped up in the corny conspiracy theories, the cover-ups, and the obligatory love triangle – excitement that was tapped into once again as Gallagher sets up a third movie. However, my concentration was frequently interrupted either by poorly-integrated side characters, or a bad line reading that could’ve been improved with another rewrite or another rehearsal.
Following in the same vein as the sequel’s dopey 2016 predecessor, The Thinning: New World Order is mediocre but a watchable guilty pleasure. It’s a film that raises questions around its cheapened story, but it’s also a thriller that inevitably entraps the attention of those who dug the book-to-screen adaptation of The Hunger Games, as well as the abandoned endeavours found in The Host and the Divergent series.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie