“The darkest minds” is an American YA Science fiction telling the story of 16 year old Ruby Daly, a survivor of a mysterious disease that has killed most of America’s children.
Those who have survived have gained specific categories of superpowers; the safer powers of high intellect (green), telekinesis (blue), electrokinesis (yellow) and then the more dangerous categories of red (fire control) and orange (psychic control); and have been relegated to internment camps where the government seek to “cure them”.
Ruby (Amandla Stenberg), having gained the level orange power, is seen as a threat and has to hide her abilities so as to survive. Being given an opportunity by a group of adult renegades known as “The League”, she breaks out and goes on the run, teaming up with 3 other young adults, Liam (blue) (Harris Dickinson), Charlie “Chubbs” (Green) (Skylan Brooks) and Suzu (Yellow) (Miya Cech) seeking a place they can call home, a sanctuary for children, just like them, headed by a mysterious figure known as “The Slip Kid”, the only other orange still known to exist.
My initial reaction at the beginning of the film was good. Director Jennifer Yuh Nelson (Kung Fu Pander 2, 3) set up the story well. However, I immediately had a pit grow in my stomach upon noticing the actress playing “Young Ruby” was at least 4 shades darker and with an entirely different hair texture than Amandla Stenberg (Ruby) who narrates the story. My next thought was, “Is this girl supposed to age to become Amanda’s character?? … Please say this kind of colourism is not what we are going to have to endure in this film”
But bless my stars it truly was. All of a sudden, six years of time had significantly lightened our Ruby and loosened her locks from a 4a to a 3b curl pattern!
Can’t help but hear Zendaya in my head explaining what is visually proven here; that on a child or a woman above a certain age, dark skin is more than fine. But be of an age where you have to be sexually viable to the majority i.e. teen or leading lady, and you must be mixed-race to play Black. It is a disappointing reality to be confronted with as a dark-skinned actress myself. That Hollywood still has these stigmas and allows them to be so blatantly, so annoyingly and obviously portrayed.
I will say that the film, outside of this pain, was enjoyable. Predictable. But fun. One could see the obvious YA romance coming (I personally would have been curious to see what the film would have been if they had been brave enough to forgo the formulaic romance necessary for any YA story to apparently get made the days).
There is also a hint of fighting the white oppressor/coloniser in a pivotal standoff between Ruby’s character and the not-so-surprising bad guy. However, overall there were no twists in the road that one couldn’t see coming from miles away.
The Darkest Minds was very well cast though in terms of the main characters. They were all believable and gave beautiful performances. But I can’t help but think this film, screaming sequel though it does, is not really going to go down in the annals of time as a cult classic or anything of that sort.
The Darkest Minds
Director: Jennifer Yuh Nelson
Writer(s): Chad Hodge | Alexandra Bracken (novel)
Cast: Amandla Stenberg, Golden Brooks, Skylan Brooks, Miya Cech
Release Date UK: Friday August 10th 2018