The Darkest Minds
The Darkest Minds 2018
It’s been a long time since I’ve gone back and forth this much on whether or not I consider a movie a superhero movie or not, quite likely it wasn’t since Sleight which was actually also a movie with a PoC in the lead role. This is more or less a mix of Hunger Games and X-Men with a stronger lean towards the dystopian future over the super powers. It has a core group of kids with different super powers who band together except they aren’t there to save the world, they just want to find a place where they can be accepted. There’s a villain and a climactic battle between the heroes and the villain but there’s no real secret identities or super heroics. There’s even just a slight touch of secret identities as the main character Ruby hides the fact that she’s an orange. It’s close, but I’m falling just barely on the line that this is a superhero movie. It’s not a very good one by any means, but it is one.
As far as the movie itself goes, it’s a very standard young adult sci-fi dystopian movie with a touch of a love triangle thrown in because every dystopian sci-fi young adult story has to have one of those. The general premise is actually quite interesting, at least half of it is. Similar to the X-Men, there’s some sort of event that starts affecting the children. The only difference is that it’s more like a virus and it affects nearly every child in the world. And when the children get their mutations, the majority of them can’t physically handle the mutation and die. Where the premise falls flat is that the surviving few children that survive with their super powers get rounded up and placed into detention camps and divided into different groups based on what their threat level is. Six years in and there’s apparently no new children and the adults have migrated to the cities in a ruined economy because that makes total sense.
Sci-fi is always filled with different ideas, and while the initial idea to give all these kids mutations and have the majority of them die works, putting them in camps just doesn’t make sense. Not only that, but the color category that the doctors give them based on their abilities also happens to directly correspond to the color that their eyes glow when they use their powers. This also doesn’t make sense as the lowest level of super powers is heightened intelligence and there are a few instances when the character in that category, Chubbs, has his eyes glow green when he’s… being smart. It makes a bit more sense with the other super powers like how blue is telekinesis, gold is electrokinesis, and orange is mind control. Those powers are generally activated at specific times to do specific things, but being smart isn’t really an on/off switch super power.
Besides imprisoning all the children in the world, they also note that oranges and reds are killed on site. We don’t find out until later that it’s not entirely true, and there’s a bit of discrepancy as they note that red is the most dangerous category but seemingly all they are able to do is breathe fire. And while it’s dangerous, the film shows us that those children are fairly easily controlled, while the mind-controlling orange threat level is actually much more dangerous in a real sense as they are unable to be controlled by the adults. And as such, we are told that there are only two oranges known to be still left alive, Ruby and Clancy. Ruby is the main character, and Clancy is the President’s son, and the first kid to survive the mutation, and the mythical “slip kid”, and the leader of this utopian group of surviving kids, and the third corner of the love triangle between him, Ruby, and category blue Liam, and he’s also working with the government to re-capture the group of kids he’s rounded up. It’s a little much for a single character. And if he wasn’t set up to be a big enough bad, there’s also a moment where he’s trying to learn from Ruby about their abilities, and he uses his own abilities to try and force himself on her. It was completely out of the blue and part of the many instances of lazy writing to get the audience to immediately turn on him despite the fact that they already showed that he was turning against all the other children just beforehand.
There were plenty of other instances of lazy writing throughout the movie, besides the quick heel turn for what turns out to be the main villain, there’s also the quick exposition early on where the doctor describes the different colored levels to Ruby and the audience. There’s also the moment where Ruby finally gets the chance to go back home, a home where she pulled a Hermione and obliviated herself from her parents’ memories when her powers first presented themselves. As soon as she gets out of the detention camp, her goal is to get home, but as soon as she sees her parents, she seemingly remembers that her parents wouldn’t know her despite the fact that her parents were the ones who put her in the detention camp in the first place. It’s something that she really knew the whole time, but for whatever reason didn’t change her mind about it until she actually got there. And conveniently, her band of fellow runaway children happened to wait for her as they knew she would be back.
The movie really just follows plenty of movie tropes all packed into one. We have the detention camps with the overly abusive prison guard, the helpful prison worker that helps Ruby escape. That helpful person also has a secret agenda that Ruby is able to see with her orange mind powers and follows a non-verbal young Asian girl who has the gold electricity powers to a van full of other kids, one in each of the “safe” color spectrums. She also happens to fall for the cool kid leader of the pack Liam and by the end of the movie, she joins the group of child rebels as kind of an orange leader in a very Hunger Games way that would be followed up in future movies if this one wasn’t such a financial failure at the box office. The film doesn’t do anything badly, but everything is just so standard that it ends up being boring and predictable. As soon as they got to the “safe” camp, I knew that ten minutes later everything was going to fall apart. There is a touch of a tragic ending as Ruby also obliviates Liam in order to protect him. There are touches of a good movie sprinkled throughout, but the rest of it is stupid sci-fi speculation that doesn’t make logical sense combined with tired YA tropes. It may be a superhero movie, but it’s not a very good superhero movie. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.