The Darkest Minds
Teen dystopian drama The Darkest Minds is an ambitious feature based on Alexandra Bracken’s novel of the same name. The story seems to derive much of its identity passively through borrowing elements from popular young adult stories such as The Hunger Games or the Harry Potter series, and while the film does have its own appeal, for most viewers it will be hard to hold back comparisons with its ultra-successful predecessors. The movie’s narrative does not fully succeed in concealing the fact that it’s following a tried-and-tested formula, and having the book as its source further hinders the flow of the piece.
Directed by Jennifer Yu Nelson, who makes her live-action debut after working on the Kung Fu Panda sequels, the plot revolves around an unknown disease that spreads among children, claiming countless lives. The surviving minority develop superhuman powers that unsettle the adults, who decide to detain them or even kill them, depending on the severity of their paranormal abilities. Youngsters are categorised by colour, green being the safest ones to approach, and red the most dangerous. Young girl Ruby Daly (Amandla Stenberg) is a rare orange, and she is separated from her family early in life due to her inability to control her powers. After years in a detainment camp, she escapes and joins three green teens on the run, but every party that offers them help seems to have ulterior motives.
The movie, if quarantined and analysed without comparisons to the stories it is clearly inspired by, is in itself an enjoyable feature, if a little unconvincing in drawing one into its world. A parable of discord between generations, it shows children as having immeasurable powers that are neither comprehended nor nurtured by grown-ups, but are rather suppressed or used for monetary or military causes to satisfy an unquenchable thirst for riches and power.
The dynamic between the main four friends works well and the way the bond between them strengthens is convincing, but the adult-youth relationship is not explored in any detail (the older characters are two-dimensional) and the film does not convey the ghastliness of the plot’s premise that all children have been wiped out from society. The transition from novel to screenplay, moreover, is not particularly smooth. One character who is intent on catching the teens – with unexplained vehemence – makes sporadic appearances and is then dropped and forgotten. Another is mentioned in passing at the start and then abruptly becomes a central figure in the final scenes.
In short, The Darkest Minds could do with a more solid structure, and while it does have some interesting elements, it ultimately comes off as a patchy copy of stories already seen.
The Darkest Minds is released nationwide on 10th August 2018.
Watch the trailer for The Darkest Minds here: