The Darkest Minds
|The Darkest Minds|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Jennifer Yuh Nelson|
|Screenplay by||Chad Hodge|
|Based on||The Darkest Minds|
by Alexandra Bracken
|Music by||Benjamin Wallfisch|
|Edited by||Maryann Brandon|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$41.1 million|
The Darkest Minds is a 2018 American dystopian science fiction thriller film directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson, and written by Chad Hodge, based on Alexandra Bracken's young adult novel of the same name. The film stars Amandla Stenberg, Harris Dickinson, Mandy Moore, and Gwendoline Christie, and follows a group of young kids and teenagers who are on the run from the government after mysteriously obtaining superpowers. The film was released in the United States on August 3, 2018, by 20th Century Fox. It received negative reviews from critics and grossed $41.1 million worldwide against its $34 million production budget.
A contagious disease called Idiopathic Adolescent Acute Neurodegeneration kills nearly 90% of the children throughout the United States and the rest of the world, leaving the survivors with unusual abilities. As a result, each country's government places the survivors in "rehabilitation camps", where they attempt to control them. The children are identified by color groups based on their abilities: Green (super intelligence), Blue (telekinesis), Gold (electrokinesis), Red (pyrokinesis) and Orange (psionic ability). Reds and Oranges are considered so dangerous to others that they are ordered to be exterminated.
Ruby Daly celebrates her tenth birthday with her family. Seeing her parents' concern about the disease, Ruby goes to comfort them in the night, touching their hands, and inadvertently erasing all their memories of her existence. In the morning, her mother has no recollection of Ruby, calling the authorities to come and take her away. Taken to a rehabilitation camp, Ruby is examined by Dr. Viceroy. When the tests show she is an Orange, he prepares to euthanize her, but Ruby instinctively uses her abilities to convince him that she is a Green.
Six years later, Ruby is found out to be an Orange when the camp's sadistic Captain realizes she is not super intelligent. The Captain uses a captured Red to kill Dr. Viceroy for his mistake. Cate, a worker at the camp, reveals herself to be part of the Children's League, an organization that uses the survivors as soldiers to fight against the government, and helps Ruby escape. Cate provides Ruby with a panic button that can be activated as a tracker if she is in danger. When Ruby gets visions while touching Rob, another League member, she becomes suspicious of their intentions. Ruby makes her escape with a mute little girl named Suzume (Zu), a Gold. Zu takes Ruby to Liam, a Blue, and his friend Charles (Chubs) a Green. The three agree to let Ruby join them as they try to make their way to "East River", a purported safe haven led by an Orange named Slip Kid.
The four enter an abandoned mall to gather supplies, where they cross paths with another group of survivors. The others know where East River is, but the only clue they reveal – due to a subtle influence of Ruby's power – are the letters "E D O". Chubs eventually deduces that this is a radio frequency, which reveals a transmission that East River is in Lake Prince, Virginia.
Journeying to East River, Ruby and Liam begin to develop a romantic connection, but Ruby refuses to touch him, fearing that her powers will hurt him. At East River, Slip Kid is revealed to be the president's son, Clancy Gray, who is an Orange. He teaches Ruby how to control her powers, and in turn, has Ruby teach him how to erase people's memories. During this process, Clancy controls her mind and kisses her.
It is revealed that Clancy is using his powers to control the government, and wants to use his new memory-erasing powers to turn Ruby to his side and forget her friends, but she manages to escape with the others. Liam flees with all of the haven kids, while Ruby faces off against Clancy, destroying the camp and making her escape with Chubs. Chubs is severely injured, leaving Ruby no choice but to use her panic button to call the League for help.
The League gets Chubs to a hospital, and lets Zu leave with a protective family. Ruby convinces Cate to release Liam in return for taking his place as a soldier in the League. Knowing that Liam will never leave without her, Ruby kisses him and erases all of his memories of her. Liam leaves the camp, while Ruby begins her training with her fellow powered kids in the League. Elsewhere, Clancy looks over his army of government forces.
- Amandla Stenberg as Ruby Daly, a teenager with the psionic ability to get into people's minds
- Lidya Jewett as Young Ruby
- Mandy Moore as Cate, a doctor and member of a group fighting against the government
- Bradley Whitford as President Gray, Clancy's father
- Harris Dickinson as Liam Stewart, a kid with telekinesis, Ruby's love interest
- Patrick Gibson as Clancy Gray, the president's son, with psionic ability
- Skylan Brooks as Chubs, a kid with super intelligence
- Miya Cech as Zu, a younger kid with electrokinesis
- Gwendoline Christie as Lady Jane, a bounty hunter of superpowered teens
- Wade Williams as The Captain
- Mark O'Brien as Rob, Cate's colleague
- Wallace Langham as Dr. Viceroy
- Golden Brooks as Molly Daly, Ruby's mother
- Sammy Rotibi as Paul Daly, Ruby's father
On September 15, 2014, it was announced that 20th Century Fox had bought the film rights to Alexandra Bracken's young adult novel The Darkest Minds, the first book in her The Darkest Minds series. Shawn Levy would produce the film along with Dan Levine and Dan Cohen through his 21 Laps Entertainment, while the television writer Chad Hodge was hired to write the adaptation. On July 12, 2016, it was reported that animation director Jennifer Yuh Nelson had been hired to direct the film, and it would be her first live-action project.
On September 26, 2016, Amandla Stenberg joined the film to play the lead role of Ruby Daly, a 15-year-old girl who runs away from her government camp and joins a group of teens. On January 17, 2017, it was reported that newcomer Harris Dickinson had signed on to play Liam, who also develops superpowers surviving the disease. In February 2017, Miya Cech was cast in her debut film to play Zu, and Skylan Brooks was cast in the film to play Chubs. In March 2017, Mandy Moore was cast to play Cate, a doctor and member of an organization who is fighting against the government, and Patrick Gibson was cast to play Clancy Gray, the president's handsome son, whose posters are all over the camp for being “cured” of his powers. He also has the power of seeing into people's minds. Gwendoline Christie was also cast in the film to play a bounty hunter of teens who escape from the camp. In April 2017, Golden Brooks joined the film to play the mother of Daly.
The Darkest Minds has grossed $12.7 million in the United States and Canada, and $28.4 million in other territories, for a total worldwide gross of $41.1 million, against a production budget of $34 million.
In the United States and Canada, The Darkest Minds was released on August 3, 2018, alongside Christopher Robin, The Spy Who Dumped Me and Death of a Nation: Can We Save America a Second Time?, and was originally projected to gross around $10 million from 3,127 theaters in its opening weekend. However after grossing $2.3 million on its first day, including $550,000 from Thursday night previews, weekend estimates were lowered to $6 million. It went on to debut $5.8 million, finishing eighth at the box office and marking the 12th worst opening for a film playing in over 3,000 theaters. It dropped 64% to $2.1 million in its second weekend, finishing 12th.
In its third weekend, the film grossed $255,173 and was pulled from 2,679 theaters (85.6%, 3,127 to 448), marking the largest third-weekend theater drop in history, beating Live by Night's record of 2,659.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 17% based on 132 reviews, with an average rating of 4.06/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "The Darkest Minds does little to differentiate itself in a crowded field of YA adaptations, leaving all but the least demanding viewers feeling dystopian déjà vu." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 39 out of 100, based on reviews from 28 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.
A.A. Dowd of The A.V. Club called the film "a formulaic hodgepodge of secondhand plot points" and "an insult to its target demographic" of teen moviegoers. William Bibbiani of TheWrap praised the film and the cast, but concedes "it's not quite thrilling enough [...] so it plays a bit more like a manifesto than a sci-fi thriller." Monica Castillo of RogerEbert.com wrote that while the film has a "promising start", it "ultimately doesn’t quite deliver."
While the film is based on the first of four novels, three novellas and three short stories in The Darkest Minds series, and the film’s ending sets the stage for future action, and director Jennifer Yuh Nelson stated that she would be happy to return for a second film in the series, no definitive plans have been announced, and were reported to be unlikely given the poor box office performance of the film.
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