The Darkest Minds

THE DARKEST MINDS,  US, 2018. Starring Amandla Stenberg, Mandy Moore, Bradley Whitford, Harrison Dickinson, Gwendoline Christie, Skylan Books, Patrick Gibson. Directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson. 104 minutes. Rated M (Science-fiction and violence).

For those not in the know about the novel on which this film is based, the title, at first glance, might indicate one of those many current horror films, sinister characters, blood and gore. However, this is not the case.

The novel by Alexandra Bracken is described as a Young Adult novel. There has been something of a proliferation in recent years of Young Adult novels and films set in a post-apocalyptic world, challenge to young people, some kind of internment and categorising of them in terms of dangers and capacities, the urge to break free, the expose of the authority figures. In film terms, it was probably The Hunger Games which set the tone, followed by such series as the Divergent films, The Maze Runner, The Giver. However, these films were made in a way to attract an adult audience as well is the Young Adult audience.

The Darkest Minds seems to be aimed at what might be called a Younger Young Adult audience, and audience still in their teens. Another film like this in past years was The 5th Wave. The characters are younger, also still in their teens. Another feature of this film is that it is multi-racial in its characters, the central character is African-American as is another in the group, a rather nerdish young man. There is also an Asian American. However, the hero and the villain are both white males.

The central character, Ruby (Amandla Stenberg) offers a voice-over, indicating mysterious illness and deaths of children, the repercussions at school, in families, even including the son of the American president. Ruby is 10, has a strange and threatening experience with her mother, but is then rounded up with other children and taken to a camp, tested and catalogued, those in the green space being less dangerous, yet interned in a camp, those classified orange as the most threatening. No surprise to find that Ruby is orange but is able to manipulate tests to pass as green.

The main action takes place six years later, the audience being introduced to the League, with adults like Mandy Moore trying to rescue the children to escape from their servitude. The guards, needless to say, are brutes.

Ruby encounters a small group, Liam (Harrison Dickinson), the leader, Chubs (Skylan Brooks) the nerd, plus a young Asian American girl. The group bonds, roaming the countryside escaping pursuit, trying to find the camp which is the refuge for the threatened children.

When they do, all is not plain sailing as might be expected and this builds up to danger, confrontations, escape, the role of the League…

There is no fixed conclusion to this episode – and, one presumes, the producers are hoping that this film is successful at the box office to get the finance for the expected sequels.

Fox.   Released August 23rd

Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.

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