I feel like I repeat myself every time I have to review a movie based on a young adult novel but there is a real consistency about these films and it’s not a good one. Like the Divergent Series, The Maze Runner and the doomed Mortal Instruments before it, The 5th Wave came and went before my eyes and left nothing behind. No feeling, no lasting impression, no desire for more, just another shallow and soulless money grab of a film looking to draw in a teenager audience who, hopefully, will know that they deserve better. Time will tell on this, especially the box office, which I’m sure this alien invasion film won’t even make a dent.
The formula of these films starts with their leads. The Hunger Games had the charismatic “it girl” Jennifer Lawrence anchoring it down while the other series had the lesser know actors and actresses Shailene Woodley, Dylan O’Brien and Lily Collins, which, besides the latter actress, made them bigger stars than they were. The 5th Wave goes the route of having the target audience popular Chloe Grace Moretz playing the lead character and Nick Robinson as the second lead, fresh off of the massive success of Jurassic World. With the cool as ice Liev Schreiber in the cast too, the film looked almost bearable.
The story is about Cassie (Moretz), a teen living in middle America with her mother, father and little brother, Sam. This quintessentially American family lives a happy life until monolithic spaceships appear all over the planet one day. Just being an ominous presence for a couple days, the invaders then release the first wave of their attack, a global electromagnetic pulse that disables all power on Earth. The second wave commences, flooding large areas of the planet due to massive earthquakes and then the third is unleashed as a virus delivered by the birds carrying a deadly avian flu-like disease. There isn’t much focus on these wave of attacks, presented mostly like a montage with small scenes in between. It’s kind of frustrating for the viewer as you have nothing to grab onto character wise.
The fourth wave is then presented, a well known trope in alien invasion films, infiltration that causes mass paranoia within the survivors. The military then promptly shows up to take all the children to a safe haven, a military base headed up by the aforementioned Liev Schreiber, playing Colonel Vosch. During this time, Cassie is separated from her family and strives to reunite with her little brother, pushing the film for a short while into a sort of survivalist tale, but only for a fleetingly temporary time. This is the end game of the film really, for Cassie to reunite with her brother. Defeating the aliens in never really a priority until the third act.
With a trio of Hollywood writers on board, it’s kind of fitting that this film feels like it is trying to go in as many different directions, none of them very interesting. Worse yet, we get nothing but stock feeling characters. Cassie does nothing to set her apart from any other character we’ve seen before in these types of films, a smart and family driven girl that is forced into extraordinary circumstances and perseveres. At no point do we feel her life is in peril and there’s little concern that she’s not going to make it through to the end. I know this should be something pretty obvious, but if the writing made the Cassie someone we could care about than this would be a moot point.
Then the heavy handedness of a shoehorned love story comes into the film, a massive pet peeve of mine. I feel that the story could function fine without this added element but it seems our writers, or maybe even the novelist Rick Yancey, couldn’t imagine this story with a contrived love interest slash love triangle subplot. It will give your eyes a workout with how hard you roll them. I won’t go deeper into this for spoiler reasons but I feel this part of the movie will not be well received at all.
To put the nail in the coffin of The 5th Wave, and this may be a “duh” moment for some readers towards me, but the movie doesn’t have a real ending, it just sort of trails off leaving all threads open for a sequel, which it might not even earn. Just look at the projected franchises of The Mortal Instruments (now a Netflix series, way after the film) and The Golden Compass, a film that felt like poison to New Line as soon as it underperformed. Then again, the movie only cost just under $40 million to make. Funny enough, this kind of shows in the uneven CGI in the film.
There’s always room for me to be surprised when it comes to what the public wants to see but I have a good feeling that the audience that will go see this will be quite underwhelmed and the word of mouth will be bad if not non-existent. To me it was a long and largely boring two hours and another lowly dud to just occupy space in this dismal and dreadful movie month that is January. I’m desperate for February at this point. I give The 5th Wave a one out of five.