• Guy Jeffries

The Darkest Minds


Director: Jennifer Yuh Nelson.

Starring: Amandla Stenberg, Harris Dickinson, Skylan Brooks, Patrick Gibson, Miya Cech.

Novel based: Check

Awkward blossoming romance: Check

Band of misfit rebels: Check

Some sort of segregation: Check

Awesome pop/rock soundtrack: Check

No one to trust, even the good guys: Check

Themes of Friendship and Family: Check

You could apply this checklist to every recent teenage adventure franchise like Hunger Games, Divergent, Maze Runner and it obviously works here. But the formula seems to work and appeal to the younger audiences, yet maybe adding the tagline “from the producers of Stranger Things” is a little misleading.

Based of the titular novel by New York Times bestseller, Alexandra Bracken, this marks the first book of her trilogy that was first published in 2012. But it is another of one those youth adult fiction trilogies that seems to follow a trend. There’s more than one reference there to Watership Down, a film that tormented me as a child (just because it’s got cartoon bunnies on cover, doesn’t make it soft and fluffy) and this appears to run parallel.

There’s an epidemic that’s sweeping the country (I’m assuming it’s not a pandemic because there’s no reference of this happening outside of the states) where children are dying for unknown reasons and those that survive, evolve special abilities like genius-like intelligence, telekinesis and other Jedi mind tricks.

The story focuses on Ruby who is a rare kind of special child, rare simply because her kind are deemed too dangerous and are immediately executed on discovery and so her adventure begins meeting fellow mutant children along the way, trying to find a safe haven whilst dodging and escaping bounty hunters, the government and other, maybe friendly allies.

Kung Fu Panda 2/3 director Jennifer Yuh Nelson uses this as her first live action directorial debut and proves she’s very capable. However, there’s nothing outstanding about her style but maybe the story restricted her opportunities to really show off. Whilst she delivers, I do believe certain parts could have been done differently if not better.

I was impressed with Stenberg’s performance in last years Everything Everything and I wonder if she got the part thanks to that previous role. She has a delicacy about her that certainly puts her up with the likes of Hunger Games’ Katniss and Tris from Divergent. Dickinson does equally well and the two together spark a chemistry that essentially carries the film, but it also does distracts away from the bigger picture. There’s a lot of unanswered questions.

Benjamin Wallfisch was a good score with some soft, ambient tones but is easily drowned out by a strong, pop-ridden soundtrack that steals all the best scenes with dramatic effect. Tracks from Sigma, Birdy, Mating Ritual and Noah Kahan make up a part of the soundtrack, and here’s hoping they follow suit for the next instalment; if there is one.

Sadly, we’ve all been here before and there’s nothing really new or refreshing brought to the genre, however that doesn’t make it any less entertaining. It’s engaging throughout but it isn’t amazing and overall doesn’t quite hit it’s mark.

There’s two more books that follow on so, I suppose it depends on the reception on this that determines the future of a possible trilogy. Even though the end leads to something more, I haven’t read anything confirming production of the next books “Never Fade” and In the Afterlight”

Running Time: 8

The Cast: 8

Performance: 7

Direction: 6

Story: 7

Script: 6

Creativity: 7

Soundtrack: 8

Job Description: 7

The Extra Bonus Point: 0

64% 6/10

#JenniferYuhNelson #AmandlaStenberg #HarrisDickinson #SkylanBrooks #PatrickGibson #MiyaCech #MandyMoore #BradleyWhitford #GwendolineChristie #MarkOBrien #WadeWilliams #LidyaJewett #BruceBlackshear #BenjaminWallfisch