With summertime nearly over, moviegoers are long overdue for another dystopian flick filled with superpowers and kids raging against the adults that aim to suppress them.
Over the past ten years, the film world has been flooded by a wave of page-to-screen adaptations about societies in ruins and their ongoing fight for power, a fight that is often between young and old (e.g. “The Hunger Games,” “Divergent,” “The Maze Runner,” etc).
Although “The Darkest Minds” has an inventive plot and offers a fair amount of entertainment, it lags in character chemistry and distinctiveness from its genre predecessors enough to turn heads.
In the modern-day version of the United States that “The Darkest Minds” uses as backdrop, the sudden death of 90% of children across the country leaves the adult world in a lurch. The government, which (unsurprisingly) serves as the primary ‘bad guy’ figure throughout the film, determines that the rational course of action is to detain the remaining 10% of children, who have begun to develop varying degrees of powers.
A system of color is rapidly enforced, labeling each child with a color ranging from green to red.
Among the ten percent is protagonist Ruby (Amandla Stenberg, “Everything, Everything”) who has lived the past six years of her life within a cruel and restrictive government “camp.” Unknown by government officials, Ruby is a rarity: an ‘orange’ and by extension, an imminent threat.
Smuggled from the camp by a rebellious doctor, Cate (Mandy Moore, “A Walk to Remember”), Ruby is re-submerged into life beyond bars. When her suspicions of Cate begin to rise, Ruby makes the snap-decision to join Liam (Harris Dickinson, “Beach Rats”), Zu (Miya Cech in her film debut) and Chubs (Skylan Brooks, “Southpaw”), three rag-tag children who are on the run from bounty hunters and in search of a rumored, kid-run sanctuary where powers are accepted.
Ruby steadily grows on the posse, soon becoming a fourth member of their oddball family.
While seeing Ruby among friends after years of loneliness is heartwarming, it cannot make up for the lagging chemistry and straight-up awkward dialogue she shares with her quickly-established love interest, Liam. Dialogue aside, the overall vibe of adventure that goes along with the whole tale of “kids on the run from a society that rejects them” adds a fun and lightheartedness to a film that cannot afford to take itself too seriously.
Though the remainder of the film does not stray far from the expectations of its genre, the motif of color that director Jennifer Yuh Nelson touches on repeatedly is noteworthy. Through a system categorized by color, the government asserts their dominance over the children and assuages their own fears of powers out of their control.
While in the film this major emphasis placed on a child’s color refers to the magnitude of their physical power, the concept behind a system of oppression organized by color is a clear reference to the history of racial oppression in the United States. This connection that Nelson makes to a real, contentious issue in society today makes her film feel a bit more meaningful.
Whether it salvages the movie as a whole and makes it worth the 10 dollar ticket, however, is still up for debate.