Australian Council on Children and the Media

Darkest Minds

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Not recommended under 13, parental guidance recommended 13-15 due to violence, and distressing themes and scenes

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Darkest Minds
  • a review of Darkest Minds completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 20 August 2018.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 13 Not recommended due to violence, and distressing themes and scenes
Children 13 to 15 Parental guidance recommended due to violence, and distressing themes and scenes
Viewers 15 and over OK for this group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Darkest Minds
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Science fiction themes and violence
Length 104 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

In a dystopian future, children begin to die of a mysterious neurological disease. However, those that don’t die develop powerful abilities that range from heightened intelligence to mind control.  After the government deems these ‘survivors’ a serious threat to others, they are forcibly removed to prison camps, where they are abused by soldiers and forced to work in sweatshops.  

When Ruby (Amandla Sternberg), a 16-year-old ‘survivor’ with rare mind control abilities, manages to escape she stumbles upon a group of runaways searching for freedom and safety.  Ruby and her new friends, Liam (Harris Dickinson), Zu (Miya Cech), and ‘Chubs’ (Skylan Brooks), locate what appears to be a safe haven for children like them, led by Clancy Gray (Patrick Gibson), the son of the President who started the camps.  Being a mind reader like Ruby, Clancy offers to help her understand and control her powers, so she can interact with her friends without fear she will hurt them. 

It soon becomes clear, however, that Clancy is the mastermind in charge of the soldiers who are threatening the lives and freedom of the children.  With the help of her friends, Ruby must escape from Clancy, and join forces with a group she isn’t sure she can trust, to form a resistance against their common enemy.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Loss of parent/child; separation from a parent; child abuse and maltreatment; murder; teen romance; supernatural powers

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is considerable violence in this movie including:

  • Numerous instances where guns are used by adults to either hit or shoot people (including children)
  • Liam is punched and kicked repeatedly in the face and stomach by Clancy – blood is visible (other characters are also physically assaulted in this manner)
  • Soldiers physically and verbally abuse children and teenagers (e.g., pulling a girl by her hair; screaming in children’s ears; punching; shooting; hitting with their guns)
  • People are burnt alive (quick, not particularly graphic)
  • Characters are crushed by falling objects
  • Adult characters are electrocuted
  • A doctor tries to inject Ruby (aged 10) with a lethal injection – she escapes
  • Adult characters forcibly ram their cars into the van being driven by the children
  • Clancy is forced to undergo surgical procedures against his will

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • The children labelled as category ‘reds’ breathe fire out of their mouths, and are used as weapons against the other children (and to ‘dispose’ of adults in the prison camps)
  • Many of the scenes involve loud noises, fight sequences, explosions, gun shots, and threatening adult characters

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

  • Ruby (age 10) accidentally erases herself from her parent’s memory and is abandoned by them. She is forcibly removed from her home by the government
  • ‘Chubs’ receives serious burns to his face and body and appears to be dying – he is later taken to a hospital (it is unclear what his condition is)
  • Children are hurt and killed deliberately throughout the film

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

  • A doctor tries to inject Ruby (age 10) with a lethal injection – she escapes
  • Adult characters forcibly ram their cars into the van being driven by the children
  • Clancy is forced to undergo surgical procedures against his will – not graphic, but may be disturbing

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

  • Ruby is pushed onto a bed by Clancy, who tries to force himself on her
  • A teenage boy uses his mind control powers to force a female soldier to shoot herself in the head
  • An older male guard verbally abuses Ruby (aged 16) in a way that is vaguely sexually threatening

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • Twinkies
  • Vitamin Water
  • EveryReady brand torch
  • WeatherX brand radio
  • Apple MacBook

Sexual references

  • An older male guard verbally abuses Ruby (aged 16) in a way that is vaguely sexually threatening

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some partial nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • Ruby and Liam embrace intimately
  • Ruby and Liam kiss
  • Ruby’s bra is briefly visible while changing
  • Ruby and Liam very briefly flirt while Ruby is coming out of the bathroom wrapped in a towel after a shower

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • use of lethal injections

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • idiot; bullshit; shit; ass; asshole; dipshit

In a nutshell

Darkest Minds is an action fantasy based on the first in a series of teenage fiction novels by Alexandra Bracken. It is likely to be entertaining for older teens and young adults, but the many violent scenes and, particularly, distressing scenes of children being threatened and harmed, make it unsuitable for younger viewers. It is therefore not recommended for under 13s and parental guidance is recommended for the 13 to 15 age group.

The main messages from this movie are:

  • Difference should be celebrated not punished or feared
  • Family is who you choose to love, care, and support
  • Looking out for and helping those who cannot do so for themselves
  • Resisting bad, inhumane, and unethical forces, while hard, is vital for freedom and safety of all 

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss:

  • The real-life consequences of physical violence (including the use of guns, and punching others)
  • Recognising when interactions with others become sexually manipulative or abusive (especially for younger girls).
  • The romanticising of relationships between young teenage girls and young adult men – some parents may wish to discuss when such relationships become inappropriate for young girls.
  • Segregation and racism

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