DESPITE the post-Hunger Games glut of young adult (YA) fantasy movies seemingly fizzling out a few years ago, here we have yet another popping up out of nowhere to remind us that just fitting a mould does not a good movie make.

It envisions a bleak world in which most of the child population has died out due to a mysterious virus. Yet those who managed to survive have started to exhibit powerful abilities, ranging from extreme intelligence to control of electricity or telepathy.

They are either sent to camps or used in the army by the terrified adults, graded on a colour scale depending on their powers, with the most dangerous – nicknamed “Oranges” – to be executed.

One such teenager is Ruby (Amandla Stenberg) who uses her Jedi-like abilities to escape and go on the run. Eventually she meets up with a ragtag group of other survivors – Liam (Harris Dickinson), Zu (Miya Cech) and Chubs (Skylan Brooks) – who stick together like a family as they search for a mythical safe haven.

It’s a somewhat daft concept that aims somewhere between the literal empowerment of the X-Men, the class separation of Divergent and the rousing rebellion of The Hunger Games. It leads to a film that, while far from the worst of its ilk, feels half-baked and dull as it plods along a kids-on-the-run journey doing nothing to separate itself from that most crowded of crowds.

It’s one of those cases where what worked on the page – Alexandra Bracken’s successful book series – doesn’t really work on the screen. The direction by Jennifer Yuh Nelson (making her live-action debut following her work on the animated Kung Fu Panda series) is frustratingly unfocused but the main issue here is with the script which mishandles the larger ideas as it stuffs them into too small a box.

The cast are perfectly fine but they’re saddled with bland and unmemorable characters who feel at best like pale imitations of others from the YA genre (no matter how hard they try, our heroine is no Katniss Everdeen) and whose potential for true empathy is drowned out by heavy-handed dialogue that land as gracefully as a thudding rock.

Most of it just feels clunky and rushed or like it’s retreading old ground covered far better in other similar films: from the subplot involving a caricaturish bounty hunter (played by Game of Thrones star Gwendoline Christie) to the central romance to the larger CGI spectacle in which we see the kids’ powers in full force.

Inevitably it all leads up to a rallying cry as much for a sequel as for the characters themselves. But without much life in this adaptation, the prospect of more is positively sigh-worthy.