Warning! This review contains Twilight!
The 5th Wave is based on the quite well-regarded series of books by Rick Yancey and stars Chloë Grace Moretz as Cassie Sullivan, a teenage girl trying to survive the end of the world.
Aliens have arrived on a giant Independence Day style spaceship and have launched waves of varying attacks, in an effort to wipe out humanity. The first is an electromagnetic pulse that knocks out all of the electricity, the second, a series of 2012 style earthquakes and tsunamis, the third, a plague and the fourth, infiltrators that look like us. The fifth is where the film takes us.
Now, full confession, I’ve not read the books, so I’ve no idea how they compare. As I said above, they are generally well reviewed, so they might be very good but all I knew going in was that film was aimed at a Young Adult market and that the trailer didn’t seem too bad…
…and in fact the first act of the film is not bad at all. A little on the nose at times and a little too much narrative but it moves through the plot at a reasonable speed and provides a couple of genuinely decent moments. Then the second act comes along and she meets a boy. I honestly can’t remember if Alex Roe was sparkling in his contractually obligated abs scene because I was busy rolling my eyes at the time. Maybe it was the attempt to shoehorn a Twilight style, teen love triangle into what was a reasonable film but this seems to be the point where the script gives up and the whole story derails.
Post apocalyptic worlds are hard to do on screen, they cry out for realism but when you get close to it, you end up with something unremittingly bleak and hopeless like The Road. Most films aim a little ways away from that grim reality, and that’s fine, but move too far away and you end up at the 5th Wave, where food is scarce but IV drips and eyeliner apparently aren’t. What is in plentiful supply is teen wish fulfilment, where you can train to be a badass soldier in three weeks or heal from a gunshot wound in just one.
Past this point the dialogue becomes cheesey, the twists transparent and while several notable actors (Chloë Grace Moretz, Liev Shreiber, Maria Bello, Maika Monroe) do their best, they aren’t left much to work with. Maybe it’s just fatigue from the constant stream of YA dystopian futures or the fact that pretty much everything in here has been done before and done better in both film and TV (How I live now, 28 Days Later, Independence Day, The Walking Dead, Falling Skies etc. etc.), but the best I can say about The 5th Wave is that it feels like a missed opportunity.
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