Hollywood’s YA adaptation craze has significantly died down in the last couple of years, but it hasn’t stopped studio execs completely from trying to find the next big Twilight or Hunger Games franchise. Their latest attempt is The Darkest Minds and is based on Alexandra Bracken’s series of novels by the same name. Unfortunately, the film follows the same YA pattern we’ve seen time and time again. Dystopian society? Check. Teens on the run? Check. Budding romance between the leads? Check.
In the future, a pandemic called Idiopathic Adolescent Acute Neurodegeneration (IAAN) has wiped out 98% of everyone under 20 years old. The 2% who survived ended up having powers, which the government then feared. To ease tension, camps were created to house all of these young adults and colors were assigned to designate their danger. Greens were given to those who only had increased intelligence, while Orange was assigned to the most dangerous and were to be killed on sight. Ruby Daly (Amandla Stenberg) is one of the survivors and is classified as an orange but her power lets her talk over a person’s mind so she is able to remain hidden. After spending six years inside of one of the camps, she is able to break free and join a resistance group. As they look for a safe place to leave in peace, the group of teens soon realize that the only ones they can trust are themselves.
The Darkest Minds quickly jumps into its story with some exposition, but there were a lot of moments in the beginning of the film that left me scratching my head wondering if I missed something. An early scene shows a young Ruby wiping herself from her mother’s memory, but the movie doesn’t actually tell you she did that until much later in the film. So when her mom thinks she’s just a stranger who broke into her house the next morning it feels a little weird because you have no context of the situation. Also, she never touched her dad (that’s how her powers work) so how come he never stepped in to say something? Did his memory get wiped too somehow? The film simply ignores this.
What we do get is a mediocre story about Ruby on the lam with Liam (Harris Dickinson), who has telekinetic powers, Chubs (Skylan Brooks), who is hyper-intelligent, and Zu (Miya Cech), who conducts electricity through her hands. People with powers can be interesting; just look at the X-Men, but The Darkest Minds puts all its focus in all the wrong places. We’ve seen how these cheesy “will they, won’t they” romances end up. We’ve seen how the so-called safe zones end up being related to the bad guys. The film retreads old themes while adding nothing new to the genre.
Fans of the novels may get a kick out of seeing their beloved book being adapted to the big screen, but general audiences will no doubt be bored by its laughable plotline. It’s extremely clear that the studio intends to turn it into a franchise, but they should have focused on making a good stand-alone movie first and then worry about sequels. The Darkest Minds is as generic as films come. Maybe the books are so much better as is often the case with these kind of adaptations, but after watching the film I have no desire to find out.