The darkest minds

Going to lớn the lathử nghiệm dystopian YA novel adaptation used khổng lồ feel more lượt thích escapist fare. These movies had fantastical scenargame ios where teenagers discovered who they were & how they could fix the messed-up world around them. But the times have changed, & the stories haven’t. The narratives that once elevated the act of surviving adolescence into lớn a hero’s journey now feel stale. With so much anxiety about the future in the real world, we don’t need entertainment to transport us inkhổng lồ a dystopian one.

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In this adaptation of “The Darkest Minds,” a mysterious illness kills almost all of the children và brings out superpowers in others. The adults-in-charge panic, rounding up surviving kids and teens khổng lồ be put inlớn closely guarded internment camps. The children are then segregated by a color-coded rubric that looks almost exactly lượt thích the Homeland Security Advisory System. Those wearing green scrubs are the lowest threat level—they’re mostly just really smart kids. Blue-màn chơi children can manipulate matter; those wearing yellow work clothes have sầu the ability lớn manipulate electriđô thị. If you’re ever unsure of what a kid’s abilities are, their eyes will shine with their corresponding color when they use their power.

Ruby (Amandla Stenberg) is a special one. She has orange-level abilities, which means she’s telepathic, complete with Jedi-like mind control & the ability to erase herself from people’s memories. Considered too dangerous khổng lồ live, the government supposedly destroys any child who scores orange or red (fire-breathing destructors). She disguises herself as a green kid until her cover is blown during a kiểm tra. A sympathetic doctor (Mandy Moore) helps her escape, but Ruby isn’t sure she can trust her. She runs off with three other escaped children—Liam (Harris Dickinson), Charles or “Chubs” (Skylan Brooks) và Suzume or “Zu” (Miya Cech)—hoping khổng lồ find a promised l& where kids lively safely away from the grown-ups.

It’s a promising start, but one that ultimately doesn’t quite deliver. The movie’s plot feels scant, as if it’s only skimming the surface of what it’s lượt thích khổng lồ be a child who has no one to trust or turn to in this world. When Ruby accidentally erases herself from her parents’ memories, she experiences a traumatic moment of rejection, and it haunts her for the rest of the movie. Liam adopts a “for us, by us” ethos after a shadow group claiming khổng lồ want to lớn help children were instead training them lớn fight a war.

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Director Jennifer Yuh Nelson (“Kung Fu Panda” series) isn’t able khổng lồ elevate the kids’ fight for survival above its melodramatic trappings. In what’s supposed lớn be a symbolic rallying cry, Ruby pridefully shows her orange stripes by smearing Cheeto-colored powder across her forehead to other kids with blue, yellow & green smudges on their faces. The scene has no real narrative value, & just hangs like an incomplete thought. There are a few groan-worthy moments of bad dialogue, like the laughably obtuse refrain, “We don’t segregate by colors here.” Certain scenes just don’t work at all, like a painfully awkward dance scene in the film that’s so poorly staged, the camera feels lượt thích a grown-up supervising a thể hình full of eighth graders at a dance.

However, “The Darkest Minds” does manage to lớn keep some of its bright moments shining. Stenberg does an outstanding job of exploring Ruby’s many conflicted emotions, like her want khổng lồ see her parents again knowing that they don’t remember her. She’s sensitive, resourceful and pensive sầu, bringing to lớn mind Jennifer Lawrence in the first “The Hunger Games” movie. Her co-star Brooks easily has some of the best lines of the movie, taking every good opportunity for a quizzical look or smart retort. There are a few decent action sequences within the runtime, including a speedy car chase through Virginia highways. But there’s also less-than-stellar set pieces lượt thích the terribly rendered showdown between Ruby và another super-strong, Ayn Randian opponent who believes the powerful kids should run the show.

But some decisions defy explanation, like how the actress chosen to lớn play young Ruby (Lidya Jewett, who does give sầu a very endearing performance) doesn’t resemble her older counterpart. The adults in the supporting cast lượt thích Moore, Gwendoline Christie và Bradley Whitford are woefully underutilized. One irreparable issue seems lớn be traced baông chồng to lớn the book. Zu, the only Asian American character on-screen for longer than a second, is mute, và the decision to stay true to lớn the source brings up ugly stereotypes of docile & quiet Asian women.

When The Darkest Minds book was released in 2012, we didn’t have sầu a government-sanctioned program lớn separate children from their parents. Conservative sầu adults weren’t attacking teenagers over the issue of gun violence. The movie features a daily broadcast of the president’s lies. Now, that’s just today’s headlines. The environment in which stories lượt thích “The Hunger Games” or “Divergent” gained followings has changed, and “The Darkest Minds” has not adapted lớn survive sầu it.


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Monica Castillo

Monica Castillo is a freelance writer & University of Southern California Annenberg graduate film critic fellow. Although she originally went to Boston University for biochemistry và molecular biology before landing in the sociology department, she went on lớn Reviews films for The Boston Phoenix, WBUR, Dig Boston, The Boston Globe, & co-hosted the podcast “Cinema Fix.”