The Darkest Minds Review

The Darkest Minds
Six years ago, a mysterious “disease” wiped out millions of children, and survivors — found to possess superpowers considered dangerous by the government — were captured. In the present day, a teen with abilities beyond her understanding (Amandla Stenberg), has escaped and sets out to find an elusive sanctuary. But hiding won’t win this fight.

by Amy West |
Published on
Release Date:

10 Aug 2018

Original Title:

The Darkest Minds

The Darkest Minds feels late to the party. A film based on a YA novel, coming out three years after The Hunger Games ended, that — despite all evidence to the contrary — is banking on the trend not being quite over yet.

The Darkest Minds

The set-up, whizzed past in an exposition-heavy opening, is that almost all children have died. The survivors, however, exhibit superhuman abilities and so have been forced into concentration camps by fearful adults. But the film really begins when Ruby (Stenberg), a powerful 16-year-old, breaks out of the oppressive facility using her skills in manipulation and teams up with three similarly special people to seek out a fabled safe haven.

One of The Darkest Mind’s biggest missteps is how light it is.

What follows is equally rushed. The youngest member of the group — Zu (Miya Cech), who can control electricity — bonds with Ruby instantaneously; telekinetic leader Liam (Harris Dickinson, who turns in the best performance of the bunch) falls for her at first glance, while hyper-intelligent Chubs (Skylan Brooks) rolls his eyes from the sidelines. The four leads have undeniable chemistry, but obstacles such as Ruby’s desire to abandon her newfound friends, aggressive bounty hunter Lady Jane (Gwendoline Christie), and eventually a foreseeable big bad, are all overcome so quickly, it becomes frustratingly predictable.

The amount of material it borrows from other films (X-Men, Divergent and The Hunger Games most obviously) doesn’t help; nor Benjamin Wallfisch’s soft and sentimental score, which fails to prompt any excitement.

Counterintuitively, given its title, one of The Darkest Mind’s biggest missteps is how light it is, from the romance at its middle to its number of awkwardly landed gags. It’s easy to see why it wallows in the saccharinity as it gives it a point of difference from other similarly plotted films. But tone is where it most needed to pinch from other YA titles in order to make its storyline pack a punch. It certainly could have done with sharpening up its edges a bit — interjecting more political themes and perilous moments.

Perhaps more so now than when they first became popular, these kinds of films — about standing up to corruption and prejudice — have relevance, but it’s crucial they have something new to say. Here’s hoping the inevitable follow-up can do that.

The Darkest Minds boasts a decent cast and a fairly interesting premise centred on likeable characters. But its banality squashes any potential it had, resulting in a safe, forgettable sci-fi.
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