When a disease begins targeting and killing children, you fear the future of the generation. However, when the children who survive develop dangerous abilities, you fear for yourself. That is the situation that Ruby Daly finds herself in. To compound her issues, not only does she have powers that she can’t control, but among the powerful, her abilities are among the rarest and strongest. Amandla Stenberg stars in this film based on a young adult novel series. Anyone else sensing a franchise in works? Unfortunately, despite the vacuum let behind by Twilight, Hunger Games (which our star was a part of), and the recently ended Maze Runner, I’m not so sure that The Darkest Minds will be the vehicle to fill the gap. Overall it was a solid opening, but I left the film with more than a few unanswered questions.
Ruby Daly is ten years old when her life changes forever. A disease that targets children ravishes the world, killing a large percentage of the world’s children. Those who survive the disease develop abilities varying from enhanced intelligence to mind control. Fearing the threat, the government locks away the children. Ruby is one of those children. Classified by color (Green, Blue, Gold, Red, and Orange, with Orange considered the most dangerous and are to executed on sight), Ruby is the most rarest and considered the most dangerous, so she hides in plain sight and in constant fear. Until she is freed by a group looking to exploit her abilities. Mistrusting her would-be saviors, she runs away and happens upon a group of children who have escaped a similar circumstance.
Despite being kindred spirits, Ruby keeps her guard up. Or as best she can, as she finds herself drawn to the opposing group’s leader, Liam. They all form an uneasy alliance with the shared goal of reaching a safe haven, run by a legendary Orange. However, life has taught Ruby that nothing is ever what it seems, making her doubt whether this supposed safe haven is really everything that she heard it was.
So it goes without say that Amandla gives a strong performance and is the biggest asset for this film. I have been a fan of hers dating all the way back to her performance in Colombiana. Since then, I have followed her career closely, and she just gets better with every performance. This is no exception, as a key component of the film is the emotion that she must convey. She is also no stranger to book adaptation, with this being her third (with a fourth to premiere later this year). I have no doubt that if this film becomes a franchise, it will be owed in no small measure to Ms. Stenberg. Her chemistry with her co-star, Harris Dickinson, was above average as well. Dickinson is a compelling everyman and exhibits all the traits of a natural-born leader, but it is his plucky sidekick, Skylan Brooks, who steals the show, providing much need comic relief.
In regards to my unanswered questions, the biggest is one is in regard to a group that remains shrouded in mystery for the entire film. There is no real conclusion to what the Children’s League stood for? Why did Liam hate them so much? Additionally, the character of Liam is woefully underdeveloped; a bit more backstory for him would have gone a lot farther to understanding his motivations. Dickinson does a good job working with what he had, but I just would have like to know more about him. I suppose they could be saving it for the next installment in the franchise, but to get to that stage you have to provide a complete story. I’m not sure we got that.
The film did inspire me to look into its source material to determine how closely it follows that path laid out in front of it. I wasn’t able to finish the novel completely, but I’d say for the most part the movie stays true to the essence of the original story. There are the obvious Hollywood touches such as the removing of characters and reduction of content, but for the most part, I believe fans of the books will be pleased with the adaptation.
The Darkest Minds is clearly marketed for young adult target audience, and those will likely be the ones filling the seats. Though there are many things I did enjoy about the film, I feel that a franchise will likely prove to be out of reach, with a part of that being due to timing. With kids focused on returning to school, I just don’t imagine them flocking to the silver screen for this dystopian sci-fi thriller. Not to mention, it is up against some competition that makes the idea of it winning the box office a pipe dream. Which is a shame, as if anyone is deserving of a franchise, it is Amandla Stenberg.