THE DARKEST MINDS – Another Journey to Teenage Dystopia

Teenage dystopian stories were so five years ago haha. It appears studios want more, desperate for their next HUNGER GAMES or HARRY POTTER, you can’t blame them. The next series to hit the screens is THE DARKEST MINDS. It came out a few weeks ago and i apologise for my delay in publishing the review, life has thrown one epic curveball my way and I trying to recover and catch up. Big thanks to Kernel John for reviewing this one. THE DARKEST MINDS is out now from 20th Century Fox, is rated M and runs for 104mins. Enjoy John’s thoughts on the movie……….all the best……….Salty.


Young adult fiction seems to be an ever growing subset of modern art.  Whether it is in the form of books, films or television shows, more and more productions seem to target that particular age bracket.  Though generally written for that specific audience, consumers of this media extend far beyond that small generational cohort to include large portions of the adult population as well.  It seems that everyone, no matter how old, really does enjoy the wizarding world of HARRY POTTER, the post-apocalyptic horrors of THE MAZE RUNNER, and the uplifting coming of age of LOVE, SIMON.

To add to this ever-growing collection of work is the newly released dystopian science fiction film THE DARKEST MINDS, originally a novel by Alexandra Bracken, now brought to the silver screen by director Jennifer Yuh Nelson (KUNG FU PANDA).  It stars Amandla Stenberg (THE HUNGER GAMES), Harris Dickinson and Mandy Moore.


The Darkest Minds Mandy Moore and Amandla Stenberg image
Mandy Moore and Amandla Stenberg



A devastating and frightfully unpronounceable disease, affecting only the young, known as Idiopathic Adolescent Acute Neurodegeneration plunges the planet into chaos when it kills off 90% of the world’s children.  Those that remain find themselves endowed with new abilities, from heightened intelligence, to telekinesis, to manipulation and projection of fire.  Fearful of the destruction potentially wrought by these enhanced individuals, the government corals the surviving kids into internment camps controlled by the military.

10 year old Ruby Daly (Stenberg) finds herself the latest victim of this contagion.  Collected from her family by government agents, she is tested and ranked against what appears to be a colour coded food pyramid of death.  Found to be an Orange, one of the highest, rarest and deemed the most lethal of all classes, Ruby possesses the ability to manipulate and control minds.  Under orders to immediately execute any such individuals, Ruby manages to use her burgeoning powers to convince the doctor that she is a Green, the lowest and safest rank.

Storyline shortcomings aside, THE DARKEST MINDS is a very enjoyable film.

Six years pass with no real change to the state of IAAN or the brutal regime surrounding the treatment of those afflicted.  Ruby, hiding in plain site within the internment camp as a Green, is believed to be one of the last remaining Oranges in existence.  When a new test for Enhanced reveals her truth, Ruby escapes with the assistance of Doctor Cate Connor (Moore), an infiltrator for the resistance group known as the Children’s League.  Suspicious of Connor’s intentions, Ruby abandons her and joins up with a group of other fleeing children lead by Liam Stewart (Dickinson), who are attempting to find East River, a purported safe haven for the enhanced.

But who can Ruby really trust?  Liam and his friends?  Cate and the Children’s League?  Or the mysterious East River group?  Struggling to understand her place in a land in turmoil, while both hunted and feared for her incredible power, Ruby must learn how to survive in a world vastly different from the one she knew so many years ago.


The Darkest Minds Skylan Brooks, Amandla Stenberg, Harris Dickinson, and Miya Cech image
Skylan Brooks, Amandla Stenberg, Harris Dickinson, and Miya Cech



I actually quite enjoyed THE DARKEST MINDS.  Stenberg is a lovely actor and brought to the screen the true sense of innocence that a sixteen year old Ruby would have of the world which she last saw six years before.  There is a quiet beauty in her naivety, made all the more pronounced when she awakens her strength and realises her purpose.  Dickinson is also wonderful, showing a rougher grit for Liam as a young man who has been out in this broken world for a longer period of time.  The fragile romance between these two is also incredibly sweet to watch unfold, coming across as a genuine teen romance without all the clichés.  Ruby and Liam’s small crew of misfits are equally as solid, helping to bring the whole story together in a believable and enjoyable manner.

The special effects and action scenes are also quite good.  The explosions are exciting, the car chases are thrilling, and when the children use their powers, especially those who are deemed Red, it truly leaves you in awe of their destructive potential.  In today’s modern cinema of MARVEL comic book heroes and galaxy spanning STAR WARS epics, anything short of CGI mastery and choreographed perfection can often leave the audience wanting.  THE DARKEST MINDS delivers though, standing on par in these categories in a very satisfying manner.


The Darkest Minds Harris Dickinson image
Harris Dickinson



Where this film loses it for me a bit though is in the execution of its story.  Audience members are dropped into this destroyed world with only brief backstory and explanation.  Normally, I am a fan of this minimalistic approach, too often films get bogged down in pre-setting details, however so much of the unfolding narrative hangs on the interactions only hinted on at the start, that a little more of the “why” and “how” would have been nicer to more firmly solidify the world building.

The ending is also very open ended.  THE DARKEST MINDS sets itself up for the next few instalments by leaving us all hanging when it fades to black.  Far from being an exciting cliff hanger that urges patrons to return for the sequel, instead I am left a little disappointed that so few steps were taken towards an overall resolution.  Though this film is based off the first book in Bracken’s trilogy, the short introduction and lacklustre ending feels very much like a middle movie chapter, where I was supposed to know more going in, and deliberately left to expect a decent ending next time.


The Darkest Minds Harris Dickinson and Amandla Stenberg image
Harris Dickinson and Amandla Stenberg



Storyline shortcomings aside, THE DARKEST MINDS is a very enjoyable film.  It is incredibly similar to so many other young adult movies out there at the moment, but for me, the film had enough of a hook to entertain and when it really comes down to it, is that not why we all partake in the cinematic experience after all?  It will never go down as a classic, but be sure to check it out when you have a lazy afternoon free.





A lifelong lover of the silver screen, Kernel John strives to engage and entertain his audience through the shameless use of humour in his reviews, even when it probably isn’t warranted. When not musing for Salty, you can often find John bouncing between his extreme states of either puppy watching down by the beach, or reflecting on the deepest mysteries of the Universe.

** All images courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor/publisher – credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.