The 5th Wave Review
I would like to state upfront that I have not read The 5th Wave book. Honestly, I can't keep up with all of these young adult novels being written at a massive rate. There is all sorts of other stuff I read on top of all the movies I watch, and so lots of stuff goes underscored. Even if I did have the time, I don't know if I am the target audience for these books. But there is no denying out popular they are, since we seem to have a couple of them adapted into movies every year. I want it to be clear that I haven't read the books before getting into this review.
This movie starts, as all these young adult stories do, with a girl. She's a high school student named Cassie (Chloe Grace Moretz), she's a typical high school girl who is dealing with typical high school things. That's up until ships start showing up in the skies. These ships belong to aliens, and with most alien movies, they didn't come to play nice. These aliens, known as Others, attack the earth in four waves. They set off an EMP that destroys all the worlds technology, they create several natural disasters which destroys all islands and coastal cities, and then they design a modified version of the bird flu which kills thousands. The fourth wave involves the Others coming to Earth, but in human hosts. There is no telling who is an Other and who is not.
I enjoyed how "The 5th Wave" reinvented the alien invasion movie. In a time where alien invasions have been plentiful onscreen, "The 5th Wave" actually feels kind of fresh. The opening moments are actually quite solemn because of how matter-of-fact everything is. It feels realistic, it feels authentic and it feels frightening. There is a realistic anesthetic to the first half the movie that I greatly admired. There is a scene where a bunch of adults get into an argument with the military which goes south and the military ends up killing the adults. The moment is effective because it never feels like it is coming out of a Hollywood movie.
I wish I could say the rest about the film, because this feels so different from the average alien invasion. For a little while, I was tricked into believing that this was going to be more than the average young adult story as well. Sadly, after Cassie gets separated from her family (in the silliest way imaginable as the military randomly decided to separate the children from their families.) and she's on her own, things go south. The rest of the movie is determined to follow the same young adult story cliches. Cassie has to become a slight survivalist in order to live, she wants to find her brother Sam (Zackary Arthur), she receives help from Evan Walker (Alex Roe) and they fall in love. Sam is on a military base in order to train to fight the Others. Sam is there with Ben Parish (Nick Robinson) who just so happens to be his sisters' former crush. So of course there is an awkward moment when Cassie, Evan and Ben are all together in a scene. Could there be a love triangle? Maybe, we'll have to wait for a sequel.
The thing is, I don't know if I really want a sequel. "The 5th Wave" has a lot more in common with "Divergent" than "The Hunger Games." Look, you may have enjoyed the book, but whatever made the book enjoyable is not translating to screen properly. I can buy Chloe Moretz as a badass chick way better than most young actresses who land these roles, simply because I loved her in the "Kick-Ass" movies. But the character she was hired to play for the rest of the movie shoves her down, mostly due to such a sloppy script. Arthur, Roe and Robinson are fine, but they are just cliched characters. Liev Schreiber and Maria Bello play two military commanders who are training children to fight the Others. They are both very good, but we've seen this type of work from both of them before, its not particularly illuminating here.
Some might say that there is twist in this movie, but if you are paying attention, you can telegraph it from a mile away. Had the movie been smarter about the secrets that lie in the movie, I think I may have had a better time with "The 5th Wave." I also think I would have had a better time with this movie if it did a better job breaking away from the young adult cliches. We have seen the formula so many times now that a film has to stick out now in order to mean anything. Just going through the motions may grant you a hefty box office, but that doesn't mean your franchise is built to last. We are seeing the same thing happen with young adult stories that we saw with the fantasy and superhero genres in the early to mid 2000's. "Lord of the Rings" and the first "Harry Potter" made box office bank, so Hollywood adapted the shit out of every fantasy book they could get, with bland results. "X-Men" and "Spider-Man" also made box office bank, so Hollywood adapted every superhero they could get, with bland results. If an idea in Hollywood catches momentum, the studios will squeeze every penny they can get out of it, and story and character won't add into it. If you want to adapt a young adult novel into a movie, go right ahead. But why must history repeat itself? Don't pander, make something original. Make your movie stand out in front of the rest of the crowd. Approach your adaptation from a different angle. Watch all the "Hunger Games" and "Divergents" there are out there and pay attention to how they fail and succeed. I don't mind these adaptations, but my patience for them is running thin.
FINAL GRADE: C-