The first of a trilogy, THE DARKEST MINDS is a young adult sci-fi action movie similar to films like the THE HUNGER GAMES, DIVERGENT series that made a whole lot of money for Lionsgate. 20th Century Fox (or Disney for that matter) obviously hopes for the same. But THE DARKEST MINDS is quite the disappointment.
The premise involves a devastating disease abbreviated IAAN, whatever it stands for.
98% of the children are dead and the 2% surviving develop powers that no one understands. The audience witnesses only one of these deaths though millions have occurred in the world in a school cafeteria of all places. The film gets worse. Poor African American Ruby (Amandla Stenberg) sees the poor girl die and the film suddenly focuses on Ruby. Ruby has some powers that cause her to be taken, again like all the other children in the world to concentration camp like hospital centres to be cured of the powers. Apparently the government wants to harvest these powers for their own army to fight against …..? This part is never explained. There are several levels of powers possessed by children, colour coded. Ruby is orange which means she has the rare highest of the powers and those with orange are to be eliminated by death – a case of adults scared of the unknown. (The future is orange! Joke for the British.)
One can hardly blame director Nelson whose other credits are the two KUNG FU PANDA animated features which were not half bad. So one could blame the source martial or the kind of film she had been instructed to direct. Based on the story described, THE DARKEST MINDS could be a real scary horror/satire involving the end of the world. Instead, it turns out to be young adult fantasy that despite a few good ideas (like the colour coded powers) no one believes in.
The film poses lots of unanswered questions. Questions like: Why do all the parents not care about their children? How did the disease originate? What is the reason for the superpowers? The synopsis in wikipedia describes a vicious bounty hunt by the name of Lady Jane which only appears briefly in the film. The character must have been either edited out of the film or perhaps she appears in the sequel.
It is hard to describe the film’s best scene as there are none. The film’s worst scene has the two leads declare their love for each other in a long 5 minute sequence that keeps them babbling sweet nothings to the audience’s yawns.
To the director’s credit, the film was made on a modest $38 million, looks acceptable and probably satisfies the studios. She has some good images on screen, like the raised coloured hands at the end of the film signalling sequels to come. I would like to quote a line used by the late Toronto film critic, John Harkness from NOW Magazine to describe the Hulk Hogan film he hated: “Recommended for backward children.”, a line that got him into a lot of trouble for writing, but for obvious reasons I will not use it for this film. THE DARKEST MINDS shows a little promise and is interesting in certain parts, but could have been a much better start of the trilogy.