THE 5TH WAVE (2016)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 52 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Violence and Destruction, some Sci-Fi Thematic Elements, Language and brief Teen Partying

5thWave poster

Directed by: Jonathan Blakeson

Written by: Susannah Grant, Akiva Goldsman & Jeff Pinkner

(based on the novel THE 5TH WAVE by Rick Yancey)

Starring: Chloe Grace Moretz, Nick Robinson, Ron Livingston, Maggie Siff, Alex Roe, Maria Bello, Maika Monroe & Liev Schreiber

In a world where HUNGER GAMES has ended and DIVERGENT is on the brink of concluding, Hollywood frantically searches for its next big young-adult franchise. The latest attempt at grabbing teenage eyeballs has come in the form of THE 5TH WAVE. Based on the first in a trilogy of young-adult novels (of course), this film follows a by-the-numbers dystopian plot aided by stereotypical teenage romantic clichés. So, do I loose movie critic points if I say that I actually didn’t mind it as much as other recent young-adult movies? This is definitely no HUNGER GAMES, but it’s also far better than DIVERGENT or the latest MAZE RUNNER. Essentially, this is the tween equivalent of INDEPENDENCE DAY and there’s fun to be had in that.

5thWave 1

Cassie Sullivan is your average 16-year-old girl. She goes to school, likes boys, and is constantly texting on her phone. All of this comes to an end when a UFO begins to orbit the earth. First, the aliens take out our technology and electricity. Then, the aliens (uncreatively called The Others) bring a huge earthquake followed by a plague to wipe out most of humanity. To make matters even worse, the Others start taking over human hosts BODY SNATCHERS style. Soon, only small groups of survivors are left intact. With the help of mysterious farmer Evan, Cassie finds herself on a dangerous journey to rescue her younger brother. Meanwhile, Ben (Cassie’s crush) and Sam (Cassie’s aforementioned brother) train to fight a new kind of war against the Others.

Nick Robinson; Maria Bello

You can definitely tell that THE 5TH WAVE is yet another in a long line of young adult novels being turned into potential blockbuster franchises. However, this film is currently tanking at the box office, so it’s unlikely that we’ll ever see the two follow-up novels hit the big screen. I’m bummed about that, because THE 5TH WAVE is pretty entertaining. It definitely has its fair share of problems and I could easily understand why someone would outright hate this movie, but it worked okay for me. Part of this might come from the bleak sense that humanity has ended. In a series like DIVERGENT or MAZE RUNNER, the tone somehow never seems to appropriately meld with the apocalyptic setting. 5TH WAVE doesn’t shy away from scenes of destruction or questionable morals brought about by the end of humanity. It’s oddly refreshing in that way.

5thWave 3

As Cassie, Chloe Grace Moretz is a suitable enough lead. She’s a stronger female protagonist than Tris (from DIVERGENT), but far from a Katniss Everdeen. She only occupies half of the running time though, as the other half is devoted to Sam and Ben (also called Zombie) going through intense training. Nick Robinson (the older brother in JURASSIC WORLD) is serviceable enough in the role of Ben. I actually found Maika Monroe’s gothed-out and tough-as-nails Ringer to be the most interesting character in this military storyline. Liev Schreiber delivers the best performance of the entire film as a military commander with more up his sleeve than meets the eye. The worst character comes in Alex Roe’s Evan. The combination of Roe’s wooden line delivery and sheer blandness of Evan slow down the film every single time he’s on the screen.

5thWave 4

THE 5TH WAVE does border on potentially venturing into a horrible Stephenie Meyer-esque love-triangle of sorts. The target audience for this film are tweens after all, so we have to get an obligatory slow-motion shot of Alex Roe bathing shirtless whilst Chloe Moretz gazes lustfully at him. However, what kept me invested in this story was the far more interesting aspect of people fighting body-snatching aliens. The film realizes this and keeps moving straightforward onto this plot, avoiding any painful melodrama that might have occurred in other hands (ala Stephenie Meyer). The effects are mostly high-grade, resulting in the scenes of destruction looking great and fights/chases being competently executed. The only glaring misuse of CGI comes in the aliens resembling glowing Brain Slugs from FUTURAMA, but they’re mostly kept to the dark.

5th Wave

In true first-part-of-a-trilogy form, THE 5TH WAVE does end on a “To Be Continued…” note. This is unfortunate, because I’m actually interested to see what happens next in this budding franchise (not enough to pick up the books, but enough to sit through two more big-screen installments). If the box office and negative reception are any indication, that’s not likely to happen. True, THE 5TH WAVE is just another failed franchise in the making, but it happens to be executed with more care than other recent installments in financially successful young adult franchises (e.g. INSURGENT, THE SCORCH TRIALS). If this film sounds interesting to you, then I’d say to give it a rent or catch a matinee.

Grade: B-

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