Why do I get the feeling that today’s parents are ashamed of having grown up in the ’80s and are doing their darndest to make teens forget about the crazy stuff they saw (C. Thomas Howell in Soul Man) or did (drugs – thanks mom and dad, I learned from the best!)? Don’t they remember that some of the great ’80s movie characters were young adults? But instead of rebelling against high school principals or eating a bowl of cereal consisting of beer and Cheerios, today they have hunger games (not hungry eyes) and sparkle in the twilight, instead of just being a bunch of lost boys.
In the movie industry, unlike television, it takes time to latch on to a hit trend and run with it. Remember when the success of the Harry Potter movies and The Lord of Rings coincided with The Golden Compass and Eragon, both of which were best-selling fantasy novels? Neither birthed a film franchise. We’re experiencing the same thing with YA literature, a gluttony of series dealing with dystopian futures, romance, and sometimes vampires or zombies. The success of The Hunger Games has led to other franchises getting made as well as one-and-done failures like City of Bones: The Mortal Instruments.
Once again teens are tasked with saving the world in The 5th Wave only their enemy isn’t a despot who looks like Merrick from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the Kristy Swanson one) or Rose from Titanic. Nope, this time it’s aliens. New villain, same derivative swarf.
Cassie Sullivan (Chloë Grace Moretz) is your typical midwest high school girl with simple interests: soccer, going to parties and Ben (Nick Robinson), the quarterback of the football team (obviously). Then the “Others” (read: aliens) park their vehicle in Earth’s orbit and start removing the humans through various “waves” (EMP, followed by tsunami, bird flu, etc.). Cassie and her family survive the first two waves but when she gets separated from her little brother Sammy, she grabs an M-16 and sets off for the nearest military base where the children have been bussed. If only it were that easy. Along the way she meets the mysterious hunk hottie Evan (Alex Roe) who helps her get to the base where Sammy and other kids are being trained to stop the fifth wave: invasion.
From what I understand the novel from which The 5th Wave is based is very good, and it probably is in that medium. But it’s hard to not get distracted by seeing how adolescents fair in training and combat scenarios. We’ve already seen it in The Hunger Games and Divergent . Throw in an alien invasion and tsunami and we have a Roland Emmerich two-fer if you can recall Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow. The Others’ desires are never made clear as to what they want to do with the planet. The endgame is still the same, though: Kill the Wabbit, er, humans.
Taking all of this into account, the first half isn’t bad. The initial wave and resulting action is convincing as is Moretz in making her character believable. She shows the right amount of dread and apprehension in the aftermath of being in earshot of a room full of adults getting massacred. If only she didn’t have to be saddled with Evan and bludgeon us with another damn love triangle scenario.
This is still forgivable up until we switch away from Cassie and venture to the military barracks and meet up with Ben as he and the rest of the kiddos are going through the Ender’s Game playbook of training to send children out against an alien threat. Not only do we have to reintroduce Ben (yep, he survived Katrina and the Waves) but we also get tomboy “Ringer” (The Guest‘s Maika Monroe), who’ll likely knock you silly if you stare at her ass too long.
Actually, Monroe is one of the few highlights in a story that is too much of a been there, seen that. The 5th Wave is a Xeroxed copy – oh, is that too ancient a reference? How about retweeted message? – of the YA adaptations that have come before. Hey, I’m all for preparedness be it flood, zombie or alien, but can’t teens just use Red Dawn (not the Thor one) as a blueprint of what to do in an emergency?
Director: J Blakeson Writer(s): Susannah Grant, Akiva Goldsman and Jeff Pinker, based on the novel by Rick Yancey Notable Cast: Chloë Grace Moretz, Liev Schreiber, Maria Bello, Nick Robinson, Alex Roe, Ron Livingston, Maika Monroe
Travis Leamons is one of the Inside Pulse Originals and currently holds the position of Managing Editor at Inside Pulse Movies. He's told that the position is his until he's dead or if "The Boss" can find somebody better. I expect the best and I give the best. Here's the beer. Here's the entertainment. Now have fun. That's an order!