Major film series Twilight, The Hunger Games, and The Maze Runner all have a few things in common. They were popular young adult book series about teens facing incredible odds, and of course all three became successful film franchises. Now The Darkest Minds seeks to be the next chapter in this success story as the popular novel is the latest YA phenom to be adapted to the big screen.
Author Alexandra Bracken first released The Darkest Minds in 2012, at the height of the dystopian YA craze. The best-selling series now includes three novels, and three additional novellas. A highly-anticipated fourth novel will hit shelves shortly after The Darkest Minds hits theaters. So what sets this story apart from other YA tales?
Sci-fi Meets Action
After an illness kills 98 percent of the children in America, the survivors acquire special abilities. The government, fearing these new powers, forces families to turn over their children. The kids are sent to “rehabilitation camps,” where they are assigned a color code based on their abilities. Among the most powerful is Ruby, who eventually escapes the camp and joins a group of kids who live freely on the outside. As runaways, they seek a safe haven. Ruby has trouble controlling her abilities, but others see her powers as the key to forming a resistance against the government.
With the majority of adults no longer on their side, the kids must rely on one another. With powers such as mind control in play, even the survivors have a difficult time knowing who to trust. Their futures are at stake, so staying hidden is not an option. As threats emerge from all sides, fighting back might be the only way for the kids to reclaim their lives.
The Darkest Minds features both upcoming and well-known talents. 19-year-old Amandla Stenberg plays the lead role, Ruby. Stenberg stole viewers’ hearts with her portrayal of Rue in 2012’s The Hunger Games. After starring in the film adaptation of the book Everything, Everything last year, Stenberg has a big 2018 coming up. In addition to The Darkest Minds, she also stars in another highly anticipated book-to-film project, The Hate U Give.
Game of Thrones and Star Wars fans will recognize Gwendoline Christie who plays Lady Jane, an ally to the story’s antagonists. Mandy Moore plays another main character, Dr. Cate Connor, who is an important member in the fight against the government.
Here is a brief overview of key characters:
- Ruby Daly (Amanda Stenberg) – A 16-year-old who survives the disease and goes on to become one of the most powerful with her special abilities. She escapes the government internment camp and joins a group of kids on the run. Ruby is reluctant to get close to anyone, due to her inability to control her powers.
- Dr. Cate Connor (Mandy Moore) – A doctor set against what the government is doing to the surviving children. In the book, she has more going on than is seen at first glance, with ties to other organizations.
- Lady Jane (Gwendoline Christie) – The bounty hunter hired by the government to find the kids who escaped the internment camp.
- Liam (Harris Dickinson) – The leader of a group of kids that Ruby runs into after she escapes her camp. Liam also acquires special powers after surviving the disease, and soon falls in love with Ruby.
- Clancy Gray (Patrick Gibson) – The leader of East River, a safe haven for escaped children. He is the president’s son and his posters are hung around the camp as he is said to have been cured of the disease and released. In the books, he goes by the alias Slip Kid.
- President Gray (Bradley Whitford) – Clancy’s father, who willingly brings his son to the camp to find a cure for the disease.
Jennifer Yuh Nelson is at the helm of The Darkest Minds. She made her directorial debut with 2011’s Kung Fu Panda 2, which was nominated for the Best Animated Feature Academy Award. That credit means Nelson also stands as the first woman to solely direct an animated feature film for a major studio. She went on to direct the sequel, Kung Fu Panda 3.
The Darkest Minds is Nelson’s first foray into directing a live-action film, but her background proves she is up for the challenge. If 20th Century Fox decides to create sequels based on the other books in the series, it will be interesting to see if Nelson returns to direct.
The Darkest Minds hits theaters August 3, 2018.