On August 3rd, 21 Laps Entertainment premiered their most recent project, The Darkest Minds, a YA sci-fi, thriller based off a novel with the same title by Alexandra Bracken. To the company’s dismay, the film received negative reviews across the board, scoring a mere 17% on Rotten Tomatoes and 5.4 Stars on IMDB. After watching the film and quickly reading the book over the week, I couldn’t help but understand why it tanked in the box office.
The premise of the film revolves around a time in the United States where 98% of the child population is wiped from existence by a disease called Idiopathic Adolescent Acute Neurodegeneration (IAAN) and the remaining 2% is plagued with strange psychic abilities, marking them as threats to the world. In order to contain the threat of a child uprising, the US government declared for all remaining children to be placed in rehabilitation centers, otherwise known as ‘the camps,’ where they are separated by color to determine which psychic ability they wield. Children labeled as Green, Blue, or Yellow are forced to endure the camps, while children labeled as Red and Orange are killed on the spot due to the fact that their powers are far too dangerous to handle..
This brings us to the main protagonist, sixteen-year-old Ruby Daly (Amandla Stenberg), an Orange who avoids death by using her abilities to mislabel herself as a Green. After enduring six years in the camps, Ruby is given the chance to flee and is pressured to make life-changing decisions that not only comprise her safety, but the safety and livelihoods of those she encounters.
While most film critics were put off by the underdeveloped, overwrought dystopian/ escapist narrative, my concerns focus solely on the fact that the studio tried to condense a 528-paged book into a 104 minute film. This movie could’ve been so much better if it had the time to show the horrors of the camps, the time to develop the characters and the action sequences, and time to distinguish itself from previous dystopian series. Everything from the first getaway to the final battle felt rushed. It was as if this multifaceted story was cut down into a visually palatable package for viewers to consume, but not digest.