- Directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson
- August 3, 2018
A mysterious affliction causes some children to die while the survivors develop mysterious powers. Now, six years later, some of those young survivors start to fight back against the government that seeks to control them.
The Darkest Minds is a dystopian young adult science-fiction film I remember being heavily marketed with the notation of the involvement of the producers of Stranger Things. I took that as a positive sign. And in some aspects it was.
To me there appears to be themes of racism and maybe even classism when it comes to the color coding and powers. One could even see that the creative minds behind this might be alluding to the government keeping us divided us to keep their power out of fear that if we truly come together they might not be as strong if they are in power at all.
Or you could take it as a decently executed dystopian science-fiction film with super powered individuals who do not take on codenames. In that it becomes one of dozens of superhero films in a genre dominated by Marvel.
In the story for The Darkest Minds a disease called Idiopathic Adolescent Acute Neurodegeneration (IAAN) has struck children. It has killed most but those that have survived emerge with powers. A classification system is developed for the children. Green for increased intelligence, Blue for telekinetic abilities, Yellow for those that can manipulate electricity, Red for pyrokinesis, and Orange those that can control and manipulate minds. The latter two are killed upon discovery.
Ruby (Amandla Stenberg) is an Orange which means immediate termination. She is able to put the thought in her examiners head that she is a Green and manages to go undiscovered for six years. She is the only Orange in the camp that ever thought to do this. Ever! I have difficulty believing that other Oranges did not think of doing that. Well, another did but not in the camp. I will touch on that in a bit.
There is an underground movement lead by Mandy Moore of all people that gets random kids out of the camps. What are their criteria? Not exactly sure. I am not even certain they identify Ruby as Orange. They just feel a strong need to save her.
Ruby though flees from Mandy Moore and hooks up with the mute Zu (Miya Cech) who is a Yellow wearing yellow dish gloves, a Blue named Liam (Harris Dickinson), and a Green named Charles “Chubs” (Skylan Brooks). They are looking for the purported safe haven of East River lead by the Slip Kid (Patrick Gibson) who is the only other known living Orange. See? We got to it.
At first things seem great in East River. There is peace and safety but then they show that things are not so free. One striking example is when Ruby and the Slip Kid are walking around camp and come across a disagreement. Slip pushes Ruby to make them get along which she does.
The truth is the Slip Kid is after Ruby’s ability to make people forget things which is a skill she stumbled across. Why could he not figure out how to do it as well? He has been bouncing about for six years but never thought to give it a go? It is implied he knew Ruby had it but how did he get that knowledge?
The Darkest Minds is based off the first book of the same name in a YA book series and that is a weakness here. Given all the elements they have and how they use them the finale clearly looks as if they are setting up for a sequel which will never come at this point. I think the film should have wrapped things up a little more conclusively while still allowing enough for a sequel. That is a lost art in film today.
That could have been accomplished by simply not showing our lead character of Ruby walking into a stadium filled with kids (how do they have access to a stadium?) and our chief villain of Clancy (Patrick Gibson) apparently still alive standing before his own army in a Kylo Ren style fashion. Toss in a minor change or two to the closing narration and the film would’ve stood on its own while still allowing for a sequel.
The cast is not bad. Mandy Moore though is a little bland. Her part is fortunately small. Unfortunately that part is also important because without her the film would never get going. I also questioned Bradley Whitford as the president. The actor that played his son was much more of a commanding presence (in other words ‘presidential’) than Bradley Whitford was. He’s good as a smarmy coworker or a slimy acquaintance but as the leader of a nation he just doesn’t work.
In my humble opinion the world that they created given the scenario that they set up is great. It makes sense. The issue are the above noted questions or missing pieces of logic. I am not sure if the novel addresses these things, but the film certainly does not.
Despite appearing as intended to start a film series that never happened, The Darkest Minds is a good movie. It is not great or flawless, but it is entertaining enough.