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With every book to film adaptation there are obvious changes. That’s what happens when you transition from one medium to another. And while there have been some minor tweaks when it comes to the color system in The Darkest Minds, it doesn’t appear to undermine the story’s intention or the role that the color system and these abilities play.
Whether it’s having the characters’ eyes glowing their “color” when using their ability — to show that they’re using their ability — or Chubs’ change from Blue to Green, there was logical reasoning behind every change.
In The Darkest Minds, a mysterious disease kills most of the children in the United States. But for those that survived, they came out of it with a special ability or power. There are five classifications of abilities (from most potent to least): Red (pyrokinesis), Orange (mind control), Gold (electrokinetic), Blue (telekinesis), and Green (enhanced intelligence).
The way we get to see each ability on display in the book does a great job of illustrating how these powers work and a deeper understanding of them that an audience watching a movie might not get.
Let’s take a look at the powers on display in The Darkest Minds film:
Ability: Pyrokinesis, Firestarter
Known Red: n/a
Ability: Mind Control, Telepathy
Known Orange: Ruby
Ability: Electrokinetic, Manipulate Energy
Known Gold: Zu
Ability: Telekinesis, Environmental Manipulation
Known Blue: Liam
Ability: Enhanced Intelligence, Hyperawareness
Known Green: Chubs (in movie)
One of the more significant changes in the book to film adaptation is that Chubs’ power was changed. In the books, Chubs is a Blue, like Liam. But in the film, Chubs is a Green. Author Alexandra Bracken pointed to that change as one that she was not thrilled with initially.
“‘You shouldn’t do this,’” Bracken recalled telling director Jennifer Yuh Nelson about the change, at her BookCon panel. “It’ll cause you more problems. But the way Jen again explained it to me was it would be even better if we have a full representation of the abilities, minus Red, in the van so the viewer gets a better sense of how all these powers connect and how they can all be utilized in different ways.”
But Bracken understands why they decided to change Chubs’ ability. It didn’t compromise who his character was.
“It works with his character,” she said. “It didn’t really change his character when it comes down to it, which is why it works so seamlessly. I think I would be the harshest critic of the movie, and it absolutely did not bother me at all.”
Skylan Brooks, who plays Chubs in the film, agrees that it made sense to make the switch because it illustrates four of the five colors consistently on screen. It’s also quite fitting with Chubs’ personality.
“They were just like, ‘Well both of them are blue and they both have telekinesis and that would be cool, but Chubs has superior…he’s very smart in the book.’” he told us on set last year. “You can tell he knows more than him [Liam], so it just makes sense that he’s a green because it’s going to entail all this falls under this. He knows Portuguese and languages and all of this.”
Because these abilities are some prominent in the story — and due to the change from large, detailed book to two-hour movie — I think changing Chubs to a Green was an understandable move. That way it’s able to show four of those five colors in a consistent manner that’s more noticeable to, say, a viewer that hasn’t read the books.
Miya Cech, who plays Zu, talked about her power as a Gold, which was changed from Yellow in the book. Another minor change that is more politically correct and serves to avoid any issues. Cech’s character Zu doesn’t speak a line in the entire film, so it’s her actions that speak, literally, louder than words.
“So I have electricity, it’s why I was wearing those yellow gloves,” Cech told us on set last year. “I have electricity and if I touch anything, I could short circuit it. I can touch anything electric and it would just explode or I could make it do stuff — I could fix it. I really like my power.”
While each power has its advantages and disadvantages, which color would you ultimately choose? For Amandla Stenberg, who plays Ruby, it was something she considered carefully. And after careful consideration, she remained loyal to her character.
“I feel like everyone wants to be an Orange or a Red,” she told us on set last year. “I feel like being a Red would be overwhelming because I don’t necessarily want to be able to start fire out of my body. And I don’t really want electricity coming out of my hands either, that seems pretty overwhelming. Being an Orange — which is what Ruby is — is really cool. I just think being able to have that relationship to memory and be able to project thoughts onto other people is really cool.”
The Darkest Minds movie has begun incorporating the different powers into its marketing. On the film’s official Twitter, you can determine what “color” you are:
— The Darkest Minds (@DarkestMinds) June 21, 2018
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.