The 5th Wave

Posted by Joel Copling on January 21, 2016

"The 5th Wave" is the kind of movie about which the phrase, "It just didn't do it for me," is the most apt one could possibly use. This is the latest in this decade's trend of dystopian young adult adaptations of best-selling novels (In this case, Rick Yancey's novel, the first of a trilogy whose final installment releases in May 2016, is the source), but while the initially intriguing premise is undermined by a useless, sort-of love triangle and a penchant for the hokey and melodramatic, it is also entirely innocuous. Most of the actors look bored but are serviceable, J Blakeson's direction is mostly anonymous but occasionally skillful, and the "major twist" is apparent at first blush.

Cassie Sullivan (Chloe Grace Moretz) was once as normal a teenager as one could imagine--partying with friends, crushing on handsome football player Ben Parish (Nick Robinson), and enjoying a quiet, suburban life with her parents (Ron Livingston and Maggie Siff) and younger brother. That is, until the Others came in their spaceship (The visual effects, for this craft and elsewhere, are often chintzy and indistinctive), which hovers over their neighborhood. This, as well as a global power outage as a result of an electromagnetic pulse, was the first wave in an attack that, predictably, will end with total annihilation (For what other reason would aliens come in a movie's universe at this point?). The second wave was mass tsunamis that left islands and coastal cities in ruins, and the third was an epidemic of the avian flu.

Strangely enough, it is the fourth wave, not the titular fifth, that is the most intriguing of the bunch: In an attempt to spread paranoia among the remaining humans, the Others take control of humans by latching to the telencephalon of the brain, effectively making this an invasion by body snatchers. The screenplay by Susannah Grant, Akiva Goldsman, and Jeff Pinkner then effectively forks off into two stories. One follows Ben, whom Cassie believed dead in the initial attacks, as he is recruited by Col. Vosch (Liev Schreiber) and Sgt. Reznik (Maria Bello, enjoying a nice paycheck) alongside Ringer (Maika Monroe for some reason), with whom Ben shares light romantic tension, to fight the intruding, alien force.

This is the more intriguing of the two plots than the other, which follows Cassie as she looks for her younger brother (Both Mom and Dad die in the attacks), with whom she parted in the chaos of the revolution. She meets Evan Walker (Alex Roe), a loner with a secret of his own, along the way. Not a lot of this is all that involving once the fifth wave reveals itself merely to be an extension on the fourth (just with a less mysterious cause), a formulaic bit of daring escape from a military base contains all the usual beats of daring escapes, and the final images only really manage to tease the potential sequel, "The Infinite Sea." Yes, indeed, the only place to end a review of "The 5th Wave" is to return to that original phrase: It just doesn't do it for the audience.

Film Information

Chloe Grace Moretz (Cassie Sullivan), Nick Robinson (Ben Parish/Zombie), Ron Livingston (Oliver Sullivan), Maggie Siff (Lisa Sullivan), Alex Roe (Evan Walker), Maria Bello (Sgt. Reznik), Maika Monroe (Ringer), Liev Schreiber (Col. Vosch).

Directed by J Blakeson and written by Susannah Grant, Akiva Goldsman, and Jeff Pinkner, based on the novel by Rick Yancey.

Rated PG-13 (violence/destruction, sci-fi thematic elements, language, brief teen partying).

112 minutes.

Released on January 22, 2016.