Based on the YA book of the same name by Alexandra Bracken, "The Darkest Minds" is a film that comes ten years too late. Maybe the aim was to revive the genre, but this Fox studio knock-off of X-Men is creatively bankrupt. Tropey and cliche isn't always an issue if the content is entertaining, but this movie is one of the slowest, poorly written films to exist among YA cinema.
Ruby Daly (Amandla Stenberg) is a telepath (think a much less powerful Emma Frost) living in a dystopian America. Her powers come from the idiopathic Adolescent Acute Neurodegeneration or IAAN, a virus that decimated the country's child population. As a survivor of the virus, Ruby hides her abilities to avoid being killed by the government as she's deemed too dangerous to live. Other survivors with talents are color-coded and divided by sects (a theme from the "Divergent" series). Greens are for the hyper-intellectuals, blue is for those with telekinesis, yellows can manipulate electricity, red is for fire breathers, and those branded orange can control people by hijacking their thoughts and actions.
Once Ruby is broken out of confinement by the League of Children lead by Dr. Cate Connor (Mandy Moore) she meets a green name Chubs (Skylan Brooks), Zu (Mya Cech), a yellow, and Liam (Harris Dickinson), a blue. The foursome embarks on a journey to find a youth utopia called "EoD" where they'll join others just like them (think "Logan" or the Freeform television show "The Runaways.") On the way to EoD, they encounter Lady Jane (Gwendoline Christie), a bounty hunter out to capture teens for reward money. There's no rhyme or reason for the character to exist as the film never explains where she comes from. With such a phoned in performance, its clear Gwendoline Christie is in this for a quick paycheck. In fact, greed is probably why this movie was made. It's evident the studio is looking to make a profit from a potential franchise than actually caring about adapting the material properly. If anyone except Amandla Stenberg cared about what they were doing, maybe "The Darkest Minds" would be a tolerable watch.
In a story like this, the real villain is the writing. Writer Chad Hodge ("Wayward Pines") crams in so much exposition that it's hard to keep up with all the details as the story invokes so many questions that never get answered. What are these mutants teens suppose to represent? Evolution? Environmental changes? What are audiences supposed to glean from the narrative? What is supposed to be happening here?!
Themes like the separation of families and a future without children are eerily timely for our current reality and worth exploring. However, the desperation, grief, and trauma experienced by these teens isn't examined. Instead, the story makes room for an unrealistic love triangle filled with heightened bits of toxic masculinity where no one cares what Ruby wants.
While YA might be passé at the movies, that doesn't mean there is no room for change. The current movie-going audience is smarter and demands more of its stories. Writers can't continue to be this lazy and expect success at the box office.
But of course, the conclusion hints at a potential sequel because all films must be a backdoor for a cash-cow franchise these days. It's possible the sequel will answer the questions viewers need answers to but will anyone give a crap by then? Maybe reading the book will provide much-needed insight. That is unless the source material is part of the problem.