Director: J Blakeson
Cast: Chloë Grace Moretz, Nick Robinson, Maika Monroe and Ron Livingston
Running Time: 112 minutes
Release Date: January 22nd
Chloë Grace Moretz is your typical, dorky, uncomfortable teenager when the world is invaded by aliens. First, they blast us with an EMP so all of our electrical stuff stops working. Then they cause earthquakes, which wipes out most coastal cities and islands thanks to the ensuing tidal waves. Next, they perfect a form of avian flu that kills off most of the remaining survivors (but, for some reason, only 25% of Moretz’s family). Following that, they come down and go all They Live on us, using brain-huggers to take over human host bodies. We’re told by army commanders Liev Schrieber and Maria Bello that a final, fifth wave of attacks is imminent. Moretz, her family and friends dead or missing, is trying to find her little brother, who despite being maybe ten years old, has been drafted into the army. If only she could stop getting distracted by those two cute, hunky dudes who keep giving her the glad eye…
Yep, we’re back in YA adaptation territory, and the way in which they have invaded and taken over your local cinema is eerily similar. First, they blasted us with Harry Potter, which opened the door to the tidal wave likes of Twilight, The Host and Mortal Instruments. Next, they almost perfected the formula with The Hunger Games, but unfortunately all that did was result in identical but lesser takes on that format – The Maze Runner, Divergent, Ender’s Game. Here’s hoping that The 5th Wave will be the one that finishes them off for good.
It helps that the cast is mostly game ball, but having us believe that Moretz is a typical, dorky, uncomfortable teenager who is afraid to talk to boys was the movie’s first misstep, but far from its last. When was the last time Schrieber played a good guy in a blockbuster? Exactly. Casting him as the “good guy army general” is nothing more than a countdown to the eventual “He was evil all along!” moment. Both he and Bello raise the material whenever they’re on screen, but not enough to bring it up to a particularly enjoyable or worthwhile level.
To be fair, the first half-hour is pretty solid, as we get a bullet-point but expensive-looking prolonged montage of the alien’s attacks on the planet, which calls to mind scenes from War of the Worlds, Contagion, District 9, The Impossible and more, before tapering off into a movie about a girl trying to find her brother as the apocalypse rages on around her.
However, once those scenes are over, and despite the presence of three screenwriters (one of which won a screenwriting Oscar, and another who was nominated), not one original thought is brought to the tale. Moretz is basically Katniss 2.0, and while the two male leads (Jurassic World’s Nick Robinson and relative newbie Alex Roe) look good with their shirts off, there’s zero chemistry or charisma to be found with either of them. In fact, a late-in-the-day appearance by Maika Monroe (The Guest, It Follows) as a kick-ass lone-wolf kinda makes you wish that Moretz would switch teams and end up with her instead.
Director J Blakeson (The Disappearance of Alice Creed) doesn’t do anything interesting with the visuals or the storytelling, as the subtext swings wildly from a vague anti-army drafting message to holding a mirror up to humanity’s overconsumption levels to something possibly anti-establishmentarianism. It’s hard to tell, because Robinson doesn’t seem committed to telling any of them well, instead telling lightly shaded versions of all of them. The 5th Wave has no personality of its own, which is ultimately its undoing. Anyone hoping that all the loose ends left dangling here to be resolved in a sequel shouldn’t get their hopes up.