WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
When a group of teens mysteriously develops powerful new abilities, they are declared a threat by the government and detained. 16-year-old Ruby, one of the most powerful young people anyone has encountered, escapes her camp and joins a group of runaway teens seeking safe haven. Soon, this newfound family realises that, in a world in which the adults in power have betrayed them, running is not enough and that they must wage a resistance, using their collective power to take back control of their future.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
This time around, Alexandra Bracken’s The Darkest Minds, which is the first in a dystopian series, has been brought to life by the producer of Stranger Things as well as director Jennifer Yuh Nelson (who previously worked on Kung Fu Panda).
Amandla Stenberg is certainly no stranger to this genre.
We’ve seen her play Rue, a volunteer tribute in The Hunger Games, Maddy, a girl who spent most of her life being lied to about her illness in Everything, Everything and we’re set to see her in the role of Starr Carter in The Hate U Give, the bestselling novel showing on our screens later this year.
In each and every role she’s played, she’s not only slotted into her role with ease, but she keeps getting better.
In The Darkest Minds, she plays the role of 16-year old Ruby, a survivor of a mysterious disease that’s killed most of the world’s children.
But there survival came with some unwanted side effects – supernatural abilities that are considered dangerous. After being rounded up and detained in a camp, the teens are divided into categories that define the levels of how dangers they are based on tests done – Green, Blue and Yellow are safe.
Orange and Red are lethal and are told to be terminated immediately. Ruby is Orange – the second most lethal in the colour pyramid.
When Ruby gets the chance to escape from the camp, her life changes drastically when she encounters a group of teens who have dangerous abilities of their own.
On the run from the people who tried to help her since they have agendas of their own, the teens make their way to a camp that promises safety and a new way of life and acceptance, but is their new home any safer than it was when they were running from the people who claimed they were trying to help them?
Teens with supernatural abilities aren’t a new concept in movies. So if you’re looking for something that offers something unique, you’re probably not going to find it here.
What you will get, however, is an entertaining story with mostly solid acting from the cast.
Amandla, in particularly has the kind of on-screen presence that can almost make you forget about the gaping plot holes within the story. She’s very likeable and sympathetic in her role and her relationship to the cast, particularly with romance interest, Liam (played by Harris Dickinson), will at least keep you invested in the story.
In fact, it’s the acting that prevents this story from being completely mediocre. The chemistry between Dickinson and Stenberg is fun and believable, and Miya Cech in the role of Zu, the silent and traumatised young girl who escaped from camp, particularly makes a strong impression even though she never says a word.
Lastly, Skylan Brooks, who plays the role of Chubs, the smart-aleck of the group offers some comic relief with his witty retorts in the midst of the danger the group find themselves in.
Like with most book-to-movie adaptations, there will always be corners that are cut.
The biggest issue I had is that the film glosses over the mysterious disease and doesn’t quite show what happened to them or how. A gap like that is often huge because it feels like the rest of the story hinges on a very thin thread that will have people who haven’t read the book scoffing in disbelief.
The way the colours are determined is also not given more context and isn’t explored as thoroughly, thereby making what could have been a really strong concept something that is oversimplified to the point of wondering how they managed to fit the rest of the movie around this concept.
Still, having said that, The Darkest Minds is fun to watch. It’s also the kind of movie that has set itself up perfectly for the sequel, so let’s hope that this doesn’t fail at the box office like so many other first of trilogies or first in series movies sometimes do.
Do yourself a favour though – and read the book first. I think your movie watching experience of this would be much better for it.