Teenagers are a difficult market to intentionally capture so when an idea lodges into the minds of that market space, everyone jumps on board. We've seen this over and over again in media and nowhere more so with books. Young Adult Fiction exploded in the past decade thanks to genre titans like Harry Potter, Eragon and especially the Hunger Games. It was the translation of the last of those three to the silver screen that saw a bevy of series centered around exceptional teens leading revolutions against oppressive governments. A fair few of the more popular series got movie treatments to generally less than success.
Darkest Minds follows in that pattern.
Based on the first book in a four book series, Darkest Minds takes place in a dystopian near future in which a virus infects and kills almost every kid in America. Remaining children survive but gain one of five different powers and a fearful government rounds them up and puts them in forced labour camps. The more dangerous powers are rare with the top two on the scale being executed when found.
This is actually an interesting premise since the two most common abilities are super intelligence and telekinesis and with 100% of surviving children having a superpower of some sort, you have fertile ground to build a story around. You could explore the abuse of these talents by the government to overreach and extend military power against the parents of these children; you could explore how these kids, the de-facto next rulers of the world, build a new world together. Hell, you could have an interesting story that mirrors themes in Children of Men and the X-Men about humanity recognizing that its time on the evolutionary scale has come to an end.
Sadly we get none of that. The labour camp is just general abuse and for some reason, while the government has hundreds of thousands of teenagers with super intelligence and telekinesis they are relegated to shining shoes. You get no sense of actually using the massive impact that sets of superpowers would have on the world and instead the overall attitudes and abuses of power are little different from any other film. The premise is interesting but the film does literally nothing with it.
Instead, we have a prison escape, a jaunt with some unlikely friends, a third act twist that anyone and everyone could see coming, and some of the most horrifically tone deaf, boring, cringe-worthy, emotionally vapid, nonsense scripting and dialogue delivery in recent memory. The whole affair feels like someone was standing over the entire production with a clipboard checking off boxes without a care to make sure it made sense for those boxes to be on the same list. Character motivations make no sense the few times we are given them to say nothing of the reactions and revelations of plot points seeming to go on with just a shrug. Why is X group bad? Because character Y said they were. Did they quantify that badness in any way? No. Well Character Z who has been told this, whose entire lived experience encourages them not to trust anyone immediately trusts what they've just been told by someone they met within the last 12 hours.
The entire affair seems like a hollow cash grab/tax write off. The sheer laziness of it all is an insult not just to fans of the source material, but to the target audience as a whole.