Jan 242016
5th Wave poster
Title: The 5th Wave
Director: J Blakeson
Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz,
Nick Robinson,
Liev Schreiber,
Maika Monroe,
Genre: Sci-fi, Thriller
Runtime: 1 Hour 52 mins
Music: Henry Jackman
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Certificate: US: PG-13
UK: 15
Release Date: US: Jan 22 2016
UK: Jan 22 2016
See If You Like: Twilight,
Ender’s Game,

Based on the young adult novel of the same name, The 5th Wave is a young adult film, for young adults, which will definitely appeal to young adults who like young adult films.

Chloë Grace Moretz (The Equalizer) headlines as average high-school girl Cassie; a happy-go-lucky sort whose life is turned upside down when aliens begin a depressingly slow and uneventful invasion – beginning by simply parking their spaceship above the US, and waiting for almost a fortnight, before they eventually turn off our power (Wave 1), cause some nasty earthquakes (Wave 2), kick-off big-time bird-flu (Wave 3), and finally walk the Earth looking just like your average human (Wave 4), while bracing for the imminent attack (The 5th Wave) as they look to wipe out the last human survivors.

Cass survives waves 1-4, yet winds up separated from her young brother Sammy, and has to walk the 80+ miles to the military base where he’s being held; preferably before Colonel Liev Schreiber (Ray Donovan) fully militaries his army of toddlers (slight exaggeration – there are a few young kids but they’re mostly teenagers/young adults) and sends them (Sammy, Cassie’s high-school crush, and a wilful badass played by It Follows star Maika Monroe) off to fight ‘The Others.’

Now, it may seem strange to describe a film which has tsunami-inducing earthquakes, a global pandemic wiping out most of the population, the loss of the entire world’s electrical systems, the collapse of society, militarisation of children, and an invasion of the planet as ‘uneventful’, yet each of the major events discussed (even standard struggles for survival, and the loss of family/friends) is handled in such a fleeting, throwaway, manner there’s next to no impact felt whatsoever.

Any potential impact is lessened further by the over-use of some mind-blowingly poor CGI,  the way the first 3-4 waves happen in the blink of an eye (seriously – take a toilet break and you’d likely miss the first three waves), and the use of an exceedingly flat script which not only reads as a paint-by-numbers edition of practically every other young adult adaptation (including shoe-horning in a seemingly forced love triangle which doesn’t go anywhere), but proves to be ridiculously predictable throughout.

There are positives, obviously, as not only does the concept itself have some merit (anyone remember the First Wave TV series?), The 5th Wave has a fantastic cast; Chloë Moretz was a brilliant choice for Cassie, as she’s not only proved her acting talent time and again in other movies, but perfectly fits the age-bracket and every-woman persona needed to make such a character likeable, believable, and the watchable front-woman of a new young adult franchise (she’s also more than earned widespread franchise recognition, and while she’s undoubtedly been involved with better projects before, it’s great to see her getting wider exposure here).

Chloë Grace Moretz 5th Wave 01

Supporting stars also fare well as Nick Robinson (Jurassic World) is likeable enough as her semi-scared high-school crush and Alex Roe (The Calling) is an easy fit for Cassie’s, wooden, ab-having, potential new-squeeze, while despite being dumped with an utterly clichéd character Maika Monroe remains as watchable, and scene-stealing, as ever. Yet it’s the older stars (alongside Chloë) which really make The 5th Wave worth watching; Ron Livingston (Vacation) is great as Cassie’s father, Maggie Siff (Sons of Anarchy) does a decent enough job as the mother, Maria Bello (Coyote Ugly) puts in an unexpected turn as a military recruiter, and Liev Schreiber once again puts in an effective turn as the strong/silent, Ray Donovan-in-uniform, type military colonel.

Sadly though, a great cast can’t save The 5th Wave; a half-hearted waste of a potentially solid concept, which proves to be nothing but another predictable, paint-by-numbers young adult affair. Does that mean the bubble has burst for young adult films? No. Of course not, as long as they’ve still got disposable cash these films will keep getting made, and just because we’ve seen one flat film (and that’s all you can say about The 5th Wave – it’s flat and forgettable, but certainly not a bad movie) it doesn’t mean there’s not a wealth of potential left in the same market.

Similarly, many viewers who fit into the YA age/target bracket will find a lot to enjoy here; despite the throwaway nature of many events there is still a lot happening, Cassie’s likeable (almost relatable even), there are special effects and larger than life events galore, a love triangle, and more. It’s a young adult film in every sense of the word, and should entertain its target audience well enough, but this is far from the next Hunger Games, so if you’re not a young adult you should steer clear of The 5th Wave.

Matt Wheeldon@TheMattWheeldon.

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