2.5 stars (out of 5)
As ‘Young Adult’ as ‘Young Adult’ movies get, this filming of Alexandra Bracken’s book by director Jennifer Yuh Nelson (her live-action début after two Kung Fu Pandas) is all sorts of annoying, from its awfully derivative storyline to the many plotholes to the icky central romance to the guarantee, right from the word go, that there’ll hopefully be a sequel and possibly a whole series, meaning that we know full well that most of the characters here will survive and be okay.
Young Ruby narrates the early scenes where an unknown disease sweeps the world killing 90% of under-18s and leaving those left with strange powers (like the X-Men but less interesting) and a deserted, post-apocalyptic look to everything that’s never properly allowed to be sad or scary. The survivors’ abilities are colour-coded (which feels a bit Divergent-like), and Ruby (now played by Amandla Stenberg) is an ‘Orange’, one of the rarest and most feared, and during six years at an internment camp she’s forced to pretend that she’s a not-quite-as-freaky ‘Green’.
Dr. Cate Connor (Mandy Moore all grown up) knows Ruby’s secret though, and she helps her improbably break out, only to have Ruby abandon her for a fugitive group of kids that numbers super-smart Chubs (Skylar Brooks), little electrokinetic Zu (Miya Cech) and eldest Liam (Harris Dickinson), with whom she’s all set to have a goofy pseudo-relationship. They travel around, fight off bounty hunters, engage in awkward dialogue, wind up in a secret hideaway in the wilderness with other young ‘uns battling the corrupt government, and suffer through a blatantly obvious plot twist.
Stenberg is not bad here, despite it all, but the rest of the cast are fairly weak and prestigious (mostly) English actress Gwendoline Christie (as the feared ‘Lady Jane’) just vanishes from the plot. There’s also the expected FX-intensive final attack that won’t surprise anyone who’s actually seen a movie before and, again, the open-ended promise of a sequel which should never happen, given that this has already proven a box-office disappointment.
But you don’t need to be a mind-reader to have predicted that.