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Review: The Darkest Minds (2018)

Cast:

Amandla Stenberg                    Ruby Daly

Mandy Moore                           Cate

Harris Dickinson                        Liam Stewart

Patrick Gibson                           Clancy Gray

Skylan Brooks                           Chubs

Miya Cech                                Zu

Gwendoline Christie                  Lady Jane

Wade Williams                          The Captain

With Canada starting to flatten the curve and people now being able to socialize a bit, (with proper precautions), we were able to catch up with some friends over the weekend and in the process we consumed far too much wine and scotch. With that in mind, we only managed to watch a film on Sunday night, and the next movie in the stack was “The Darkest Minds”. Even though the film and the book was targeted for a younger audience, and as a person who was closer to his later years than early ones, I found the book fair, and the film pretty much followed in its foot-steps, just OK. Nothing spectacular, but an ok time waster. 

“The Darkest Minds” is based on a novel and series of the same name. In this near future world, a virus (sound familiar) has infected children around the world. This virus will do one of two things, either kill the child outright, or cause them to mutate and possess new superpowers. The powers vary and range from super intelligence, telekinesis, control of electricity, ability to create and spew fire, to the most dangerous – that of controlling the minds and will of people. This causes great fear in the adults of the world, and the government in it’s wisdom decides that all children are to be put in internment camps and be labelled with a colour that will signify their ability, (Green – Intelligence, Blue- telekinesis, Red - Fire, Orange – Mind control and Gold - electricity). The only catch is that if a child is labelled Orange or Red, they are to be executed on the spot as they are deemed too dangerous. In this world and film, the story centres on Ruby Daly (Stenberg). Ruby (Stenberg) is at home and has just celebrated her birthday (about 10 years old) when they watch the news about how children are becoming mutants if they survive the virus. Ruby sees the stress and the burden that she placed on her parents, and in the middle of the night, goes to their room to comfort them. However, once she touched them and tells them not to worry, she effectively wipes herself from their memories. The following morning, Ruby (Stenberg) goes to her mom and finds out that her parents have no recollection of her, she is then put into a garage until the authorities arrive and take her to a camp for all the children who have survived with powers. Once tested, she realizes that she is an Orange and would be ultimately sentenced to death. Manipulating the tester’s mind, she convinces them that she is a harmless “Green” and continues to exist for the next 6 years of confinement and abuse by the guards.

Introduce Cate (Mandy Moore) who is part of a secret organization “The Children’s League”. Cate (Moore) aids Ruby (Stenberg) in escaping. While on the lamb, Ruby manages to touch Cate’s partner, Rob, and finds out his darkest secrets. This scares Ruby, and she manages to escape and hook up with 3 other kids with powers who are also on the lamb. Liam (Dickinson), Chubs (Brooks) and Zu (Cech), who are a blue, green and gold respectively. The four kids are now chased by the Children’s League so that they can fight for their cause and also a number of bounty hunters who want to return them to detention. This is all happening while they search for their Neverland. This area is where the kids are free, they work with a legendary “Slip kid” who has escaped numerous times and have developed a community of their own. Once they find this sacred place, they come across the actual masterminds behind the whole confinement and pursuit, have a wicked superpower battle and manage to escape capture yet again. Thus leaving it open for a sequel, which I don’t believe is scheduled yet. 

Was the film entertaining? Yes and no, the special effects were ok and the chemistry between the characters were not too bad. However, the storyline was predictable as hell (I did not have to read the book beforehand), and at times very clichéd. The Young Adult them of movies of late (Divergent, Hunger Games etc) have set the tone for this genre and it did not surprise me at all with anything new. 

Now for the cast of this film. 

Amandla Stenberg as Ruby Daly: I enjoyed Stenberg’s portrayal of Ruby. She managed to exude the right amount of concern, confusion, fear and anger as required. Her chemistry with her principal love interest, Liam (Dickinson) was ok. I had to look at her IMDB resume to see where I had seen her before and was pleasantly surprised to find out that she played “Rue” in the first Hunger Games. This was the only role that I had seen her in previously and liked her in both. This is another case where I look forward to see where her career takes her and the roles that she selects. While there is no sequel slated at this time, the movie ended with indications that one could be in the future. However, I would be surprised as the movie did not make a lot of money and barely recouped expenses when looking at the worldwide gross. If the books become more popular, there may be a chance that a sequel could be forthcoming, though I doubt it. 

Harris Dickinson as Liam Stewart: Dickinson did a fair job at playing the love interest and hero to Ruby. Always stoic, and ever protective of his crush, he managed to convey what was required at the time/scene. Nothing stellar, but enough to get the idea. I checked his resume, and while he has been around for a number of years, this was the first time he was in something that I had watched. As mentioned previously he did have enough chemistry with Ruby (Stenberg) to ensure that their budding romance was at least remotely believable. 

Skylan Brooks as Chubs and Miya Cech as Zu: While relegated to supporting actors, these two were our favourites in the film. Both of them made my wife and I laugh out loud on several occasions. Chubs (Brooks) had some good one liners and smarmy comments that would make us chuckle or laugh as required. Zu (Cech) on the other hand was purely physical acting as she did not speak. Her childlike innocence always shone through as well as her joy. Both of their characters were fun to watch.  I looked at both of there film/tv resume’s and while I had watched some of their roles before, nothing stood out in my memory. However, having said that, now that I liked them in this film, I am sure I will pay more attention if I come across them in the future. 

I will make some mentions of some of the lesser characters:

Patrick Gibson as Clancy Gray: What can I say about this character? I found him annoying out of the gate and completely predictable on what would happen between Ruby and him. As the President’s son, and the supposed “slip kid”, he was the architect of the whole crisis going on in the States for this film. While he did not really have a lot of screen time, the character’s influence is felt throughout. I guess you could say that he was a good actor if I did not like him, as I did not care for the character himself. He is another case that I had seen him in previous shows/films (The Tudors, Gold), but he did not leave an impression at that time. He may be one of these actors who develops and ends up always playing the villain. I think he is suited to that type of character, and I have no doubt that I will see him in similar roles in the future. 

Mandy Moore as Cate: This was actually a throw away role for Moore, she received higher billing, but only minimal screen time. While she provides the means for Ruby to escape the detention centre, her character really could have been played by anyone, and probably better. It really felt like she phoned this performance in, and was only there for the paycheck. 

Now there are two smaller characters that I would like to mention here. The first is Wade Williams as the Captain. Williams always plays a slimy, good for nothing, crooked P.O.S. But he does it well. When he is on the screen I know that something is afoot and that the “good guys” are going to be beaten, abused, captured or whatever. His roles are predictable as well as his characters (they are always the same) however, I like them. He has the Bully who is really a coward down to a fine science, he knows his niche and stays within it to always provide a good performance. Also, we have Gwendoline Christie as Lady Jane. I had to laugh at the name as I was unsure that it was not a little joke with her Game of Thrones character or if it was in the book. (I can’t remember). Either way, when I saw her actively pursuing the kids as a bounty hunter I had to laugh out loud. Not because it was supposed to happen as that her acting in this role was so horrible. She was more of a caricature than a real person, and her grimaces and hard looks were actually comical. If she would have played it like she did as “Brienne of Tarth” I probably would have enjoyed it more. Her calm, stoic demeanor on GoT was better suited to “Lady Jane” than this one-dimensional farce. 

So in the end, were we entertained? I will say moderately. The movie had some high points and many low ones, but it still kept us tuned in enough to watch it to the end. We enjoyed some of the supporting cast far more (Chubs, Zu) then the leads, but it was ultimately OK. The Darkest Minds is probably the weakest Young Adult film that I have seen of late. Maybe it is the predictability, or that I have just grown tired of this sort of movie, or maybe I am just too old. The Darkest Minds was fair and killed some time and gave us a few laughs, but I would not rush out and watch it again or even get to the sequel. If you are into this type of film, I would recommend Hunger Games (franchise) or Divergent (franchise) over this one. 

Our rating. 4.5/10 (as mentioned before, the supporting characters and special effects gave it the extra points)

Till next time!

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