‘The Darkest Minds’ Movie Talk #1: Let’s Talk Faithful Adaptations

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Every Monday and Friday we’re bringing you The Darkest Minds content leading up to the film’s Aug. 3 release


When it comes to adapting Young Adult books to movies or television shows, there’s no greater pressure than the watchful eyes and critical minds of preexisting fans. It just comes with the territory of taking a story that so many people love and giving it your own spin.

The thing about adaptations is simple: When most fans say they want a faithful adaptation, they don’t need a carbon copy of the book. What they mean is that they want the essence of the story and the characters to remain true. Of course there are key moments and scenes that have defined certain dynamics in the story that they feel are necessary to the story. But ensuring those core scenes and character relationships are in the adaptation doesn’t mean it has to be word-for-word from the book. Though that never hurts.

The Darkest Minds is the latest YA book to get the movie treatment, and if star Harris Dickinson (who has read the books) has anything to say about it, he believes that this is a faithful adaptation in the sense that it maintains the tone of the book that really defines this story and these characters.

“You can definitely feel the tone of the book,” Dickinson told us and a group of reporters on the set last year. “A lot of things are out, they had to compromise. But you can definitely feel that it’s The Darkest Minds.

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of any book to movie adaptation is condensing often large texts that take hours to read into a two hour film. Book fans have come to know and love certain scenes that, if absent in the film, don’t go unnoticed. The hardest critics of any YA movie adaptation are the fans of he books that inspired it.

“Of course there are things that are going to be different or changed, but there are things that are extremely accurate,” Amandla Stenberg told us. “The most important thing is to keep the tone of the film and the originality of it really authentic and original. So what we’ve been focusing on is ensuring that the tone of the book, which is really raw and real and it’s kids, and we want to make sure that it feels that way. That it doesn’t feel like a huge studio movie.”

There’s always the challenge of pleasing the book fans that have grown to love this story and these characters like they’re family. They’ve created their own movie in their head with these characters and their looks and their voices and their actions. But the best thing you can do is remain faithful to the heart of the story and its characters.

“Of course I don’t want to disappoint any of the fans,” Skylan Brooks told us, “because I know what it feels like to read a book, have it in your mind and when you watch it you’re like, ‘I didn’t see it that way.’”

But the easiest way to ensure a faithful adaptation — and a way that’s so simple that it’s truly incredible that most directors fail in this regard — is to simply use the book that is given to you. That’s something that director Jennifer Yuh Nelson

“Because I want to respect that material — it’s not hard,” she said. “You just have to be true to the book.”

In that regard, Yuh Nelson has relied on the source material and the suggestions from author Alexandra Bracken when it comes to staying true to the tone of the story and the characters that inhabit the world.

“She talked a bit — actually, a lot — when we looked at the book, things like the van,” Yuh Nelson said. “About making sure the character of the van is true. How Liam is. How he treats Zu. The relationship between them. How Liam and Chubs are like brothers and how their relationship is. Things like that, character arcs.”

And if that tone and those characters — the true heart of the story — remains intact and faithful, then this will certainly be a satisfying adaptation.

The Darkest Minds tells the story of Ruby and three runaway teens (Liam, Zu, and Chubs) as they seek safe haven from a society that deems them dangerous because of the abilities they have developed. Along the way, these teenagers learn the true meaning of family and the importance of self-empowerment — especially when it comes to embracing your differences. It’s an all-important coming-of-age story that celebrates diversity and differences.


The Darkest Minds hits theaters on Friday, Aug. 3.


Stay tuned to Fangirlish every Monday and Friday for more The Darkest Minds Movie Talk leading up to the film’s release.

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