‘The Darkest Minds’ Movie Talk #4: Not Your Typical Dystopian Story

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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 classifying books — Young Adult, Adult, Contemporary, Fantasy, Dystopian — it’s not so black and white. Sure, Young Adult and Adult are easily distinguishable between the ages of their protagonists. Sure, if a book features wizards it’s more fantasy than contemporary. But it’s hard to put a story in a specific box. Yet that’s what’s done.

The Darkest Minds falls under the genre of Young Adult. A 16 year-old protagonist. Makes sense. It also falls under the genre of Dystopian, which is defined as “an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized an often fearful lives.” By that description The Darkest Minds certainly falls under the Dystopian genre. But in literature, particularly YA fiction, Dystopian is also associated with a world that is so far from the society we live in that it makes it almost science fiction. Well, a more possible science fiction.

With the society we live in today, most of these Dystopian stories feel more like soon-to-be realistic fiction than ordinary far-off fiction. The Darkest Minds is surely one of those stories.

In The Darkest Minds, Alexandra Bracken weaves a story about a world that doesn’t feel too far off. It’s a world where a mysterious disease swept through our country killing most of America’s children and leaving the survivors with powers. The adults are afraid of these surviving children and the abilities they possess so they try to control them in concentration camps. Only there are children on the run, eventually like Ruby, Liam, Chubs, and Zu, that are fighting for their future.

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Adults afraid of the power of children? Attempting to silence them? Wanting to control society in a way where these young people don’t have a voice? Sounds awfully similar to the world we live in today, albeit with some flair. It’s why The Darkest Minds doesn’t really feel like a dystopian story.

“Something that I think is really special about this story is that it’s not really a dystopian story,” Amandla Stenberg told us and reporters on set. “It’s more in reality and the here and now.”

Stenberg likens the story, which deals with kids with powers, to our world where children have a natural grasp to the changing world around them and more of a voice and control like never before with the evolution of technology.

“I think there’s something really interesting about the premise of these kids having these really incredible powers and being thrown into these camps by adults because of them,” she said. “I think growing up in a time where it’s crazy and rapidly shifting because of our access to smartphones and technology. Kids just naturally have a grasp on that because they’ve grown up with it. They have a grasp on it that’s more powerful and utilize that tool in a really new way more so than adults. So I think it’s a little bit scary, but really cool. I think that there’s kind of a divide because of how technology has changed different generations.”

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Skylan Brooks, who plays Chubs in The Darkest Minds film, says that this movie does a good job of presenting a fictional world in a very realistic manner with the real-life danger we all face. And in this story, like our society now, we get to see the youth do something about the corruption.

“Things are corrupt and things are messed up,” he told us. “When you have the youth who has to deal with it, it’s kinda like their way of dealing with the problem. And then it really gets turned into their hands, so they can actually do something about it. There’s a lot of situations where the United States is messed up or whatever, but this is kind of the way of the youth, this generation, dealing with it and bringing the power back to us.”

Aside from the contemporary Young Adult adaptations out there, The Darkest Minds is perhaps more grounded in that sense of reality than others. It’s not trying to create this entirely different and alternate world. It feels more like an extension of our reality in a way where it makes you ask, “What if?”

“That’s why I like the film, personally,” Brooks told us, “because it touches on like, this is happening in a way. We don’t have super powers yet, but it is happening. It is a threat.”

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Harris Dickinson, who plays Liam in the film, also believes that The Darkest Minds is more grounded than a lot of YA films. But he also assured us that it’s a film that isn’t trying to make any grand gestures other than tell this story.

“I feel like it’s certainly grounded in a lot more reality than a lot of other Young Adult films out there,” he told us. “It’s focused around a group of young kids — Ruby and us guys, Zu, Chubs, Liam — just trying to navigate this crazy world we’re in, but also just kids. I think that’s really apparent in the film. I don’t think it’s trying to be anything that it’s not.”


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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