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Why the Stranger Things duo of Dan Cohen and Shawn Levy are the real genuises behind The Darkest Minds


When a strange disease wipes out most of North America's child population, the survivors wake up to discover they're now in possession of new powers, and are feared by the adults. With no one to rely on but each other, it's up the surviving youths to forge new lives for themselves and learn how to control their abilities.

That's the intriguing premise of teen sci-fi drama The Darkest Minds (adapted from the novel by Alexandra Bracken), which lands in Cineworld on 10th August. It's produced by the incredibly talented team of Dan Cohen and Shawn Levy, who you might just know from their work on phenomenal smash hit Netflix series Stranger Things. Here's why this is great news for The Darkest Minds.

1. Like Stranger Things, the film centres on a group of youngsters

There's a saying within the entertainment industry that warns not to work with children or animals, but in the case of Stranger Things, the former definitely does not apply. It just goes to show that talent is not restricted by age; just look at the fully-realised and mature performances given by the Stranger Things gang that are equal to the adult actors.

It's the role of the producer to help find the right cast to bring the characters to life. Having made stars of several of the Stranger Things cast members (namely the charismatic Finn Wolfhard, who went on to steal the show in horror blockbuster IT), we can trust that Cohen and Levy have made the right choices casting Amandla Stenberg (pictured below), Harris Dickinson, Miya Cech, and Skylar Brooks for The Darkest Minds.

2. They know how to put the 'super' in supernatural

A large part of why we're so captivated with the Netflix series is down to just how visually stunning it is, particularly when it comes to the otherworldly, nightmarish dimension known as The Upside Down"), and the psychic powers possessed by fan favourite Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown).

It's worth noting that The Darkest Minds also follows a group of kids with supernatural abilities. Moreover, the central protagonist also happens to be a girl, Ruby (Stenberg), who forms a new group of friends in order to ensure her own survival.

Cohen and Levy certainly know how to interweave science fiction and the supernatural in spectacular style. Stranger Things had one kid with supernatural abilities (which subsequently expanded in the second season), so just imagine the possibilities when we're faced with an entire group of them.

3. They know how to craft compelling underdogs

Much of the central conflict in Stranger Things boils down to a group of kids squaring up to adult antagonists – in this case, an experimental government facility. It's one of the many ways the series affectionately honours its roots in 1980s fantasy and horror.

Although it might be a frequently used plot device, the kids against the adults premise can be pretty effective when done right. Initially powerless and ignored by the grown-ups, a group of youngsters unite to become the ultimate underdogs and overcome the odds, despite their relative inexperience.

In the world of The Darkest Minds, the characters are hunted by the adults who are terrified of their newfound powers. The antagonist in this instance is bounty hunter Lady Jane, portrayed by imposing Star Wars and Game of Thrones actor Gwendoline Christie, who will no doubt pose a deadly foe for our teenage heroes.

Given how effectively this type of conflict was executed in Stranger Things, we're certain that Cohen and Levy will be able to bring their expertise to make this battle just as nail-biting in The Darkest Minds.

4. Shawn Levy is more than just a producer

With a large, and sometimes fluctuating, team of writers, producers and directors working on numerous episodes together, TV crews often switch roles. For instance, although Levy mainly produced Stranger Things, he was also heavily involved in directing and took the lead during a handful of episodes across both seasons (pictured below). He even made a small acting cameo in the show, too.

Given his intrinsic understanding of the Stranger Things formula, Levy is well-positioned to ensure the right balance of popcorn action and teen angst that will make The Darkest Minds an enjoyable rollercoaster ride.

5. The Levy-Cohen partnership has the magic touch

While this post has mainly focused on this pair's work on Stranger Things, it's important to note that the hit TV show hasn't been their only triumph. It only takes a second to look at their career history to understand just how incredible this dynamic duo are within the industry.

In 2013, they collaborated on lauded teen drama The Spectacular Now, which drew plaudits for its lead performances from Whiplash's Miles Teller and Divergent's Shailene Woodley. Yet, out of their many collaborations so far, one of the projects that stands out is Oscar-winning sci-fi mystery Arrival. Directed by Denis Villeneuve and starring Amy Adams, this story of first contact was one of 2016's most critically acclaimed releases, and went on to be nominated for several Oscars.

Both films demonstrate that Cohen and Levy know exactly what's required to make a hit. And with The Darkest Minds located in a similarly fantastical realm to both Stranger Things and Arrival, we have no doubts that their latest project will live up to their usual high standards.

The Darkest Minds
is released on 10th August. Tweet us your favourite moments from Stranger Things @Cineworld.

Andy Murray is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.