Before I get started, I’m going on record to say that I’ve already seen this movie. Early screening from when I had time for this stuff. Won’t give anything away now, but I feel like making this known.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Amandla Stenberg (EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING , and upcoming films THE HATE U GIVE  and WHERE HANDS TOUCH ), Harris Dickinson (BEACH RATS , and the upcoming MALEFICENT 2 ), Skylan Brooks (CROWN HEIGHTS , SOUTHPAW , and the upcoming A NIGHT WORTH LIVING ), and Miya Cech (2 episodes of AMERICAN HORROR STORY [2011 – ongoing]). In support, we have Bradley Whitford (THE POST , MEGAN LEAVEY , I SAW THE LIGHT , and upcoming films THE LAST FULL MEASURE  and GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS ), Mandy Moore (47 METERS DOWN , TANGLED , and upcoming film RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET: WRECK-IT RALPH  and video game KINGDOM HEARTS III ), and Gwendoline Christie (Star Wars THE LAST JEDI  and FORCE AWAKENS , ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS MOVIE , and upcoming film IN FABRIC  and WELCOME TO MARWEN ).
Now for the crew. Directing, we have Jennifer Yuh Nelson, known for KUNG FU PANDA 3 (2016). Penning the screenplay is Chad Hodge, known for stuff I’ve never seen or heard of. Composing the score is Benjamin Wallfisch, known for BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017), LIGHTS OUT (2016), and upcoming films SERENITY (2018) and THE KING OF THIEVES (2018). The cinematographer is Kramer Morgenthau, known for REBEL IN THE RYE (2017), TERMINATOR GENISYS (2015), and the upcoming CREED II (2018). Finally, the co-editors are Maryann Brandon (PASSENGERS , STAR WARS: FORCE AWAKENS, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III , and the upcoming STAR WARS: EPISODE IX ) and Dean Zimmerman (THE LAST WITCH HUNTER , and the upcoming HOLMES AND WATSON ).
This is my honest opinion of: THE DARKEST MINDS
A virus, the IAAN (Idiopathic Adolescent Acute Neurodegeneration) virus, kills off most of America’s children and young adults under the age of twenty, leaving the survivors with incredible powers. Becoming targets of fear, those same survivors have been placed in concentration camps, and divided among their classification colors that indicate how dangerous they are. Ruby (Amandla Stenberg) developed those powers when she was ten years old and was taken for six years and was classified a rare “Orange,” one of the most dangerous, but due to fear, manages to change her color to Green to avoid immediate execution. However, the secret is eventually exposed and Ruby escapes the camp with the help of a woman named Cate (Mandy Moore), who claims to want to help Ruby. But after discovering that she may not be what’s best for her either, she runs off on her own, quickly finding other runaway teens like her. The stalwart, but handsome Liam (Harris Dickinson), the nervous, but intelligent Chubs (Skylan Brooks), and the young, but silent Zu (Miya Cech), who all seem to be heading for a rumored safe haven for kids like them.
Go figure, X-Men meets The Hunger Games wasn’t the best idea of recent years.
The very first problem of the movie, which is arguably the most recurring problem, is just how much this movie expects me to suspend my disbelief. You want to create a world of superhumans? I’m down. I love superpowers. They’re awesome. But they have to fit in a world that I can get behind too. Like, the IAAN virus kills off most of the world’s population of kids and the survivors are taken to prison camps. Um, excuse you, movie? I’m sorry, but when a new virus breaks out, the world’s top scientific minds want a slice of a pie to research, study, and understand it. This movie makes no mention of that. Also, what, the entirety of the surviving kids’ parents didn’t have a say in these camps? Were their children forced there? Lied to about the camps’ intentions? How come no parents make attempts to visit them? With so much red tape, I have a hard time believing that only the League of Children have been breaking kids out of the camps. For that matter, how have the kids with superpowers, such as telekinesis, have so rarely escaped? Throw the soldiers, or their weapons around, same with the defenses, and just run. How hard can this really be? Also, why are the Greens in the camps? I can “understand” the other colors being locked away because of their powers that literally affect their surroundings, but Greens are literally just really smart. They aren’t a danger to anyone. So why aren’t they allowed to go home to their families? None of this makes any God damned sense. And how are Reds any more or less dangerous than Golds and Blues? They’re fire-breathers. That’s a very specific kind of power, whereas Blues can move everything. One would think it’s a matter of application, rather than base destructive capabilities, which is still a matter of discussion. But nope, Reds are the most dangerous, seconded by Oranges, which control and read minds.
And can someone explain why it was so easy for Ruby’s mother to not question her surroundings after Ruby accidentally erased her from her memory? Her mom didn’t pass by any family photos on her way from her bed to the kitchen? She didn’t notice widened hips, or birth stretch marks, or her God damned husband who wasn’t affected by Ruby’s mind wipe?! How did the decision of sending her to the camps get made so quickly?! For that matter, why was Ruby eager to go home to her family like that? I would understand an angry teenage girl who wanted answers as to why her father didn’t fight for his daughter and try to explain the situation to his amnesiac wife. But no, it’s never explained, nor is it properly confronted later on.
And that was just the backdrop this world is set in and Ruby’s backstory. What about the characters themselves? Do they fare any better?
Absolutely not, which a crying shame because this movie’s got some great talent involved. Bradley Whitford is in it for a grand total of two minutes, and some of his footage is recycled, so one can argue if that counts at all. By the way, American Presidents don’t have beards. Mustaches, maybe. Not beards. Mandy Moore is a decent actress, but is in it for five minutes, so not enough time for a good character to emerge. Oh, Gwendoline Christie is in this movie. In fact, the only reason why I would want anyone to see this film is to debate with me whether or not her Lady Jane here is just as useless of a villain, or even more useless than Captain Phasma. Seriously, this debate needs to be a thing. Again, barely in the movie. Two scenes at best. All of them useless to the overall narrative.
But those are the supporting characters. How about the leads? God, I feel so sorry for Stenberg. She has all the makings of a great actress, but just can’t seem to catch a damned break. THE HUNGER GAMES was fine enough, but she’s never done much better. You can tell she’s trying, and I want to like her (actually, I kind of do), but it’s just not enough to make this movie work or really elevate it. And Dickinson, dude, he’s right up there. After such a daring performance in BEACH RATS, I was hoping to see him more in high profile movies, but here he is in this schlock. Seriously, someone needs to get these two actors in better movies before these movies put them on Facebook lists that look like: “Great actors who are never in great movies.” My heart can’t take that shit, man. The only character I can claim to like is Zu, and quite possibly only because she’s this cute, mute, Asian girl in desperate need of girl-time and takes up an attachment to Ruby. Beyond that though, the movie makes her quirk her personality, which savvy writers would call, “bad writing.” Don’t even get me started on Chubs (Skylan Brooks). Way too annoying and needed to shut the hell up once in awhile. Granted, he’s less annoying than most characters like this, but the operative word is still “annoying,” not “less.”
The romance between Ruby and Liam is utterly forced. Oh yes, two teenage dudes traveling along with only a prepubescent little girl for company, and the only teen girl with a pair of big-ish breasts they’ve likely encountered in a long ass time just happens to be put into a pretty red dress with a plunging neckline, who also happened to be soaking wet after a shower just two scenes before, but of course that spells romantic chemistry!
Fine, misogynistic cynicism aside, the romance is still not justified. Let’s start with that aforementioned post-shower scene. What woman, young or not, would literally just stand there, dripping wet, wrapped in a towel, and talk that long about socks? Especially with a boy that she barely knows! And their conversation outside the minivan is awkward as hell, fake prom date scenarios about Connor Jenkins (the only reason I remember that name is because I literally know a dude name Connor Jenkins, though granted he was never captain of any football team), and having a shot at asking her out, it’s so painful to watch. I would be less critical about it if it took its time with the attraction, but it doesn’t. It’s pretty instantaneous, treading into bad rom-com territory.
Honestly, talking about this flick is exhausting. I’ve barely scratched the surface of this story’s utter stupidity and the infinite amount of questions that I doubt you could find any answers to. The only thing I’ll say is that this movie sequel-bates the crap out of itself, and I do not want a sequel to get made. I want to see these actors in better roles. I want to see them evolve as artists. Hopefully, this goes the way of THE 5TH WAVE, and stops dead here, rather than a whole franchise like Divergent. This movie is so terribly written, the backdrop is derivative and not very well thought through, stock characters that you’ve seen a million times before, it’s just terrible. Avoid this at all costs. It’s not worth your time, money, or energy. I don’t even recommend it as a rental.
My honest rating for THE DARKEST MINDS: 1/5
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