I just want to start by making one thing clear: I'm well aware that the subject of this review is based on a series of novels and novellas; however, I will largely be ignoring these as I believe any good film adaptation should be able to stand apart from its source material, and should in no way be diminished for anyone who hasn't read said material. This is not a review of the books; I'll leave that to someone else.
So, now that the disclaimer is out of the way, let's get into this review. If you've seen a trailer for The Darkest Minds, you'll know it has an interesting premise: first all the kids are dying, then they stop dying and get superpowers, to which the government responds by putting them all in prison, and then hunting down any stragglers with extreme prejudice.
It's a solid idea, and one that sounds far too creative to have started out life as a screenplay. But that isn't the only thing that tipped me off to the fact this is a film based on a book. The second thing was the lack of development. With a book, the writer can show a character's inner thoughts for the benefit of the reader, so you can explain things that would sound really stupid in the form of a conversation. Films don't have that luxury, and, rather than find a creative way to show those details, the film just abandons them.
The powers are a good example. They are briefly outlined by a government scientist in order least dangerous to most, then everything else is left unsaid, and we just kind of have to figure out the parameters from people's actions. Also, there are very few demonstrations of how hard these powers are to use, or how much effort is required. The protagonist states that she can't control her powers but we never see them actually fail her. She doesn't overly rely on them but, every time she tries to activate them, it works.
Another thing: interpersonal relationships seem to develop at a startling rate. Because we don't have the benefit of inner monologues, we don't have a great idea of information about what our characters think of each other, and, again, rather than find another solution for expression, the film just doesn't bother.
But anyway, let's move on to what I liked about the film, because I feel like I'm kicking it. I thought the casting was excellent. It seems they went young and unknown, but that doesn't mean they skimped on quality. The four central characters had good chemistry together and the two leads delivered strong performances when it came to the romance plot. My only real gripes concern some of the behaviour in the final battle, but I think that was much more likely to be a result of poor choreography than anything else.
The antagonists were suitably threatening, especially the eventual main villain, who went above and beyond in terms of creepiness.
All in all, I had a good time with this film. It's certainly not a bad watch. I think it was a bit of a rough adaptation of what appears to be quite compelling source material. I do think we'll get a sequel, given TDM’s tiny $34M budget, and the fact that it's made most of it back in little over a week; and I for one am looking forward to that.
By Kyle J./Mooscittles