Main cast: Chloë Grace Moretz (Cassie Sullivan), Nick Robinson (Ben Parish/Zombie), Alex Roe (Evan Walker), Zackary Arthur (Sammy Sullivan), Maika Monroe (Ringer), Ron Livingston (Oliver Sullivan), and Liev Schreiber (Colonel Vosch)
Director: J Blakeson
These days, it’s mostly either superhero movies or adaptations of young adult books featuring a waif heroine that kicks some ass and, more importantly, has two guys in love with her when it comes to movies in the fantasy and sci-fi genre, and I suppose I can’t blame the folks behind The 5th Wave for chasing the money. But they are so blatantly obvious in their determination to make this movie the teen sci-fi flick of the century that the movie ends up being a hundred times dumber as a result.
Based on Rick Yancey’s equally blatant and just as poorly written cash grab series, this one of course boasts some tinkering in the script. Otherwise, how would the team of Akiva Goldsman, Susannah Grant, and Jeff Pinkner justify their paycheck? As usual, we have the spunky heroine, Cassie Sullivan, who is bestowed with the magical ability to have her hair stay perfectly stylized and shiny despite the fact that she’s supposed to be rolling in dirt and such, and she also has the power to make cute guys, even crazy murderous ones, to instinctively fall in love with her just by being. She is just a normal teenage schoolgirl who gets invited to lakefront parties like every other average teenage girl, until one day, a big alien spaceship shows up and starts causing problems.
First, they cut off all electricity and running power in what we call the First Wave. Don’t worry, the Sullivans can somehow still stay clean and shiny-haired, and their clothes all look perfectly laundered despite the lack of running water. Then the aliens send huge tidal waves from the seas and lakes to destroy everything in their path. Bye, bye Bangkok – they should have taken lessons from the Sullivans, since the family house remains perfectly clean, undamaged, and well-furbished despite the huge deluge of tidal waves hitting the entire town. Also, the hair is still shiny. The Third Wave arrives when the aliens modify the bird flu virus to be even more potent. Cassie’s mother bites the big one here, but Cassie’s hair and clothes remain as shiny and perfect as ever. Then, the Fourth Wave – the aliens get busy and start sending snipers to kill off the remaining survivors.
Finally, the Sullivans decide to leave their home for a camp – bird flu, tsunamis, Mom’s death, whatever, but snipers are clearly the last straw – only to have soldiers led by Colonel Vosch crash the party one day and huddle off the kids and teens onto school buses, apparently to take them to a safe refuge. On the bus, Sammy, Cassie’s brother, whines that he needs his teddy bear (which he left behind in the camp) and Cassie decides to head out of the bus to retrieve it. Oops, the bus leaves without her. Even more oops, she witnesses a gun fight start out among the adults (who are herded by the soldiers to one side for a “briefing”) and Colonel Vosch’s men gun down everyone, including Cassie’s dad. It looks like Cassie will have to survive on her own out there!
Ah, but no fear, in comes Evan Walker – played by some dude who is clearly cast for his cheekbones, eyes, and smile while sporting the most hideous stubble thing ever – who is devotedly in love with Cassie while acting all weird and patronizing in a creepy way. She wants to get Sam, and Evan of course helps her. Meanwhile, the kids are trained to be soldiers in preparation for the Fifth Wave, and Sammy is herded off to a squad led by Ben Parish, the guy Cassie had a crush on back when the high school was still standing. Ben is played by that annoying dude from Jurassic World, the one who played the oldest brat, and fortunately, this time around Nick Robinson only has to pout and look sullen – he’s playing a more low-key and less obnoxious version of his previous big role, in other words. These two blokes are clearly set up to be the remaining two sides in the love triangle. Who will Cassie choose? The boring jock or the creepy guy who nonetheless can do all those cool ninja tricks and has a nicer body to boot? Personally, I’d choose Evan – hot body and so loyal and is also a better attack dog to boot, perfect for surviving the whole “aliens are killing everybody” plot, but who knows what Cassie think. I don’t particularly care to know, to be honest.
This movie tries so hard to be heavy-handed with the love thing that it becomes stupid. Alex Roe and Chloë Grace Moretz have barely any chemistry together, and yet, the moment these two touch, sappy muzak immediately swells in the background. See, people, see? That’s such a sign that these two are going to have sex and fall in love – the treacly violins tell us so! HE IS HOLDING HER THIGH AS HE STITCHES HER WOUND SO IT’S 10,000% LOVE!
Both Evan and Ben are immediately drawn to Cassie just because she is there, breathing and being. Now, I know it is a typical teenage girl’s fantasy to imagine that she is so special that every man will fall in love with her without any effort on her part to elicit such a response – been there, done that – but the movie tacks in this trope so heavily in an absurdly obvious and even desperate “Look at this! You will love this! We are giving what you want, so give us your money! See? We cast these two hot dudes, so start coming up with memes and hashtags right away! And don’t you badly want to be and look like Ms Moretz? We cast her because we know you do!” manner.
The plot is full of stupid holes, such as how one would even imagine that sending prepubescents to war without proper mental conditioning first would mean anything but disaster. After bird flu and tsunamis, they send in… kids with guns? Lame. Or that how the vehicles can start moving again after the initial electromagnetic pulse thing in the First Wave stopped all electricity and other power sources. Or why there are people openly living in a town when everyone is supposed to be hiding. Or why the aliens would have lone snipers take out people when it’d probably be more efficient to just send a team to do the task. Or how Cassie’s hair and clothes can still look so clean and nice despite her supposedly having to roll in dirt and go without proper amenities for ages. Or why Evan would hide Cassie’s gun instead of just getting rid of it if he doesn’t want her to find it. Or…or… I can go on and on, but does it matter? The movie just wants teenage girls and adult women who should know better to start rooting for which guy that Cassie should fall for and make Cassie their proxy for their personal fantasies involving either or both of those Ken dolls they cast as Cassie’s love interests.
Oh, and the cast is more wooden than the trees in the filming location, especially Mr Roe.
The 5th Wave is just awash with rampant stupidity, cartoon-quality wooden dialogues, and some cringe-inducing bad acting.