Based on Alexandra Bracken’s young adult novel series, The Darkest Minds is the latest Sci-Fi thriller, directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson, concerning super-powered kids and the government’s disdain, mistrust and fear of them. The story follows Ruby Daly as she and a group of other children fight their way out of internment camps and away from threatening groups towards East River, which is rumored to be a safe haven for kids like them. Any child with powers had previously escaped the dangers of the fatal disease also known as I.A.A.N. (Idiopathic Adolescent Acute Neurodegeneration), and they are now considered a threat because of it.
The Darkest Minds explores some interesting and relevant themes of today’s politics of child endangerment – one of which is imprisonment. While the film only scratches the surface of such seriousness, there are moments that depict some heartbreaking aspects of abuse, child labor and cruelty – all because the children were different. Unfortunately, any further elucidation of these themes are dismissed for what felt like a love story, which is where the film takes a turn for the worse. Instead of concentrating on this dystopian world, there are only few glimpses of the inherit danger the escapees live through. Thus, the film becomes less exciting and the 1 h 45 min. runtime begins to feel excruciatingly lengthy.
Once the film begins to settle into its mediocrity, the lackluster story becomes apparent, and it falls victim to pacing issues and predictability. Unfortunately, the troubles don’t end there for the movie. The characters, while given ample amount of screen time, can’t escape the stereotypical characteristics that the film was itching to avoid. Furthermore, the build-up to the finale seems unnecessary and forced, which only cheapens the stakes in retrospect.
There are some positives to take away from the film, however. For one, there are some gorgeous shots and visuals scattered throughout the movie. Additionally, Amandla Stenberg once again proves that she’s got the acting chops to carry even a dull film. She truly knows when to give her all and when to hold back, which can be a challenging feature of acting among her peers. Some of the best moments of the film are those that involve the building of friendships among the four super-powered leads. It offers a heartwarming and sweet nature that feels justified due to the struggles they endure together to reach serenity. Lastly, while the open-ended style of the film’s ending was probably reserved for planned sequels (depending on the film’s success), it offers a very satisfying message about the importance of self-help and sacrifice.
In short, The Darkest Minds has some great ideas and moments sprinkled throughout the film, but ultimately, it is uninspired storytelling that wastes its potential on forced build-up rather than execution. There might be a decent movie in here somewhere, especially because of the ending; but the inconsistently paced mystery turned love story/drama comes close to its potential but ignores the basis of how to overcome its problems to exceed expectations beyond its basic plot.