The Darkest Minds – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)

Title card for The Darkest Minds
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Outside of two moments in which the lead is sexually assaulted, and the protagonist being Black, The Darkest Minds is as generic as they come.


Director(s) Jennifer Yuh Nelson
Screenplay By Chad Hodge
Date Released 8/4/2018
Genre(s) Young Adult, Romance, Action, Dystopian
Good If You Like Young Adult Novel Adaptation

Dystopian Worlds Featuring Teens and Kids

Comical Black Kids

The Quiet and Brooding Male Lead

Teen Romance

Teenagers With Powers Fighting the Man (or Woman)

Noted Actors
Ruby Amandla Stenberg
Clancy Patrick Gibson
Zu Miya Cech
Charles (Chubs) Skylan Brooks
Liam Harris Dickinson
Cate Mandy Moore
The Captain Wade Williams

Summary

It all took place around 6 years ago. Some unnamed being, force, or attack, led to 90% of either America’s or the world’s, kids to die. Those that remain all had enhanced abilities separated by how dangerous they are. The lowest level, Blue, simply had enhanced intelligence. From there, kids had electrical powers or telekinetic powers. Beyond that though are the dangerous ones. The fire breathers and those who could manipulate and control minds. Our hero, Ruby, is one of only two known “Orange” class still alive. The orange class are those who can manipulate minds and the only other one with his power is the US President’s son, Clancy. Someone who is touted as the first cured.

However, for Ruby, there was no cure available. Not for her wiping her parents’ memories of her nor the trauma of feeling isolated and alone. Yet, 6 years after being taken to a government facility, which basically is a concentration camp, a doctor named Cate breaks Ruby out. However, with Ruby discovering her partner isn’t the kindest of people, he is cruel to another kid like Ruby, she runs from them. Thus leading her to meet Zu and eventually Charles and Liam.

All of whom are looking for this kid sanctuary ran by someone who supposedly slipped away 4 times from the camps hunters. But, of course, things aren’t easy for Ruby at first. While Cate’s partner was suspicious, the Children’s League, the anti-concentration camp force, does have Cate as a representative and she seemed nice. However, Liam informs her that they too want to exploit kids like them, but with the Children’s League, it is for military reasons.

Leaving Ruby’s trust even harder to gain yet this group obtains it eventually. First Zu, who never speaks but is quite loving; then Liam, who has a huge crush on Ruby; and then Charles who eventually bestows upon her the privilege of calling him Chubs. A nickname Liam gave him from before all this.

However, as you would expect from a multi-series book adaptation, peace, and a finality doesn’t come in this first entry. There is a betrayal, Ruby almost gets raped, and she has to do what’s best for Liam to save and protect many others. Making it so, while she may get a taste of happiness, it doesn’t seem to be something which could be everlasting.

Question(s) Left Unanswered

  1. Why did Zu not talk? Assuming it was the world, and not just the US, wouldn’t she, at that age, know some English? Much less, considering how smart Charles was, you’d think between him teaching her English or speaking her native tongue, she’d say something. Unless an Asian actress was cast just to make headway into the lucrative Chinese market.
  2. So, they really aren’t going to look into what caused so many children to die or talk about it? Really?
  3. How exactly do the telekinetic abilities and fire breathers work? With the super smart blue people, it makes sense and even those who have electrical powers since or bodies work off of pulses. The other powers though? A bit tougher to crack.

Highlights

Skylan Brooks’ One-Liners

Charles alone with Ruby talking about her being secretive.

While, in many ways, Chubs doesn’t evolve much past being the male version of the sassy Black best friend, you can’t deny his jokes are funny. To the point, if the romance doesn’t get to you, or the sappy mental and emotional recovery of Ruby, Chubs may become the sole thing you liked in the movie.

It Can Get You Emotional

What makes this movie is Amandla Stenberg. Particularly because the writing of this film relies so heavily on the character’s loneliness. Her wiping her parents’ memory of her is the emotional backbone of this movie and it is brought up so much you are left wondering if they are trying to make a drinking game. Luckily, Stenberg conveys this loneliness in such a way which makes you feel for her. It makes her inability to trust after her own parents turned her in and her, for 6 years, making herself seem small heartbreaking in a way.

But, it also makes it where, as she opens up, you want to applaud her for doing so. Especially since, as Zu attaches herself to her, and Liam falls for her, you see her slowly warming up to the idea of trusting these people. Something that takes nearly the whole damn movie for that is the real journey here. Not these ragtag kids finding some sanctuary but Ruby coming out of her shell, becoming part of something, and feeling secure in those relationships. All of which Stenberg does in such a way where she survives what really is a generic script.

Criticism

So, Why Can’t Zu Speak?

Zu being carried away by Liam.

As asked, there is a serious need to question why Zu doesn’t talk. She doesn’t speak English, a language from the different cultures of Asian – nothing. The reason isn’t explained, and she really does feel like a token. A adorable, silent, Asian character just to say one is part of the movie to appeal to a foreign market.

You Can Imagine This Being One and Done And It’d Be Fine

This is an extremely generic film. So generic that, if you have seen The Hunger Games or even the now-canceled Divergent series, if not Maze Runner, you can imagine all that would happen in its sequels. Truly, the one thing which makes this film stand out is that its lead is a Black woman. That’s it.

So, Can We Talk About How Rapey This Movie Is?

Two times in the movie, Ruby is in a position where she was almost raped. The first time is early in the movie when The Captain of the camp Ruby is in clearly is trying to make an advance. Making you wonder, is this supposed to hint this is a norm or if maybe Ruby has been molested before. Following that, Clancy, while trying to learn how to memory wipe like Ruby, takes advantage of her trust, while she tries to teach him, to attempt to have sex with her. He even, after it doesn’t go right, talks about wiping her memories of it and trying again.

Simply put: WHAT THE F***? How is this PG-13? A man old enough to be Ruby’s father clearly is trying to make a move on her and if it wasn’t for another girl, he might have done something and got away with it. Then, with Clancy, he was messing with her memories, like she was drugged, and was going to have sex with her. Both of these dudes are adults and if Ruby is even 17 I’d be surprised. Hell, even if she is 18 or above, why would that matter? By all means, wouldn’t most assume this is a movies for kids or teens?

On The Fence

You’ll Warm Up To Ruby and Liam As A Couple

One of the last scenes in the movie when Ruby erases herself from Liam's memories.

Being that the YA Novels probably put more effort into the male and female lead being in a relationship, than anything else going on, it makes this film follow suit kind of meh. However, piggybacking off the previous topic, as Liam wins over Ruby by showing he doesn’t fear her, won’t discard her, and will fight for her, he wins you over. You may not find him to be a heartthrob who will make a pedestal worthy romance but he gets the job done.

Overall: Negative (Be Cautious)

I can understand why someone would watch this, if they are a fan of one of the actors or adaptations of dystopian movies featuring teens. Yay for the marketing department doing their jobs. However, between how generic this movie is and two instances which give serious rape vibes, it’s hard to even be divisive about this. For while I am a fan of Stenberg, and Brooks is always nice to see working, even my bias for them isn’t strong enough to say this is worth your money or time.

Hence the negative label. Can this be enjoyable? Maybe. It depends how low your standards are or how forgiving you can be. However, this film is the type which may inspire you to write a book series or movie for it really pushes the idea studios are desperate for the next big franchise.

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About Amari Sali 3218 Articles
New Jersey native Amari Sali takes the approach of more so being a media advisor than a critic to sort of fill in the gap left between casual fans of media and those who review productions for a living. Thus being open about bias while still giving enough insight, often with spoilers, to present whether something is worth seeing, buying, renting, streaming, or checking out at all.

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