The 5th Wave (film review by Frank Ochieng)

Well, the young adult movie adaptation genre continues to percolate, despite the farewell sentiments as demonstrated by hugely popular products meant to entice the teen scene such as the’ Twilight’, ‘Divergent’, ‘Maze Runner’ and ‘The Hunger Games’ film series. Sure, why not tamper with a proven formula that guarantees all the right ingredients to tap into the angst-ridden world of young feminine empowerment set against a background of apocalyptic strife and undefined self-discovery? In director J Blakeson’s drippy and derivative dystopian drama ‘The 5th Wave’, we are introduced to another similar SF serving of a disillusioned heroine out to reflect some consciousness in a boundary of uncertainly and destructive despair. Sadly, ‘The 5th Wave’ is nothing more than a stillborn alien invasion soap opera that wants to spout off its ‘Hunger Games’-esque copycat coating but fails to delve into anything remotely original or bitingly daring.


‘The 5th Wave’ is the literary brainchild of novelist Rick Yancey’s printed pages as he brings to life the trials and tribulations of tenacious teen tart Cassie Sullivan (Chloe Grace Moretz from ‘Kick-Ass’), a timid tyke-turned-guerilla warfare gal whose guts and gumption to find and protect her little brother during a full-scale alien invasion of the planet is put forth in flimsy animated fashion. Actually, the young actress Moretz, a veteran of a few films already lodged under her belt, has quite a feisty presence on screen and more than holds her own as the ‘princess of panic’ in the generic doomsday drama that really brings nothing to the tension-filled table.

The material that Moretz is obligated to bring to life feels rather strained and stilted because the YA creative cloud hovers over the proceedings in a predictable, syrupy manner. ‘The 5th Wave’ lacks the intensity and philosophical fiber that ‘The Hunger Games’ effortlessly put forth in imaginable conception. Plus, the energy and bombastic buzz of ‘Hunger Games’ imitator ‘Divergent’ does not seem to be part of ‘The 5th Wave’s anemic pulse. Incredibly, Blakeson’s lean and lacking futuristic feminine fable incorporates a cinematic stew of film flavors that heavily echoes such solid blueprints as everything from ‘Red Dawn’ and ‘Independence Day’ to the WOW-factor of blockbusters in ‘Jurassic Park’ and ‘Starship Troopers’. The sad part is that, even with the borrowing of these cinematic ideas, ‘The 5th Wave’ still registers as a limp alien invasion actioner without much punch or promise. The film is well-intentioned in its YA-oriented gravitas but will soon be dismissed as another ‘Hunger Games’ wannabe going through the motions.

As with the inspired make-up that is at the root of these conventional YA melodramas, ‘The 5th Wave’ offers its share of youth-minded dire and doom, romantic exploration and the element of military-style redemption and rebellion. As Moretz’s Callie is called into action among the devastating ruins she is determined to reunite with her last surviving  relative Sam (Zackary Arthur). Soon, this mild-mannered schoolgirl has to whip into shape and protect the interests of her deteriorating community as the hard-nosed alien invaders look to wreak havoc and take over the world or at least Callie’s part of the world that has her fellow citizens shocked and stunned.

"Listen up you invading planetary pests...you're not going to compromise me, my man or the world...got that Jack! Why? Well...because Cassie Sullivan from THE 5TH WAVE says so!"
“Listen up you invading planetary pests…you’re not going to compromise me, my man or the world…got that Jack! Why? Well…because Cassie Sullivan from THE 5TH WAVE says so!”

Poor Cassie…in addition to her mind focusing on locating her sibling, revving up for her showdown with the alien intruders and shaking of her vulnerabilities she is caught in a love triangle that tests her limits. Should Cassie fall for the dashing and daring Ben (Nick Robinson, ‘Jurassic World’), a fellow classmate about to enroll into the junior start-up army looking to combat the unwelcomed visitors or should her confused heart throb for backwoods bad boy Evan Walker (Alex Roe)? Also, how would Cassie feel if she discovers that her hunk-in-training may have a thing for the ravaging rough-around-the-edges recruit Ringer (Maika Monroe). Ah, love among the languishing landscape!

It is definitely the consensus that ‘The 5th Wave’ may not be included in the Mount Rushmore of youth-friendly dystopias merely because it is nothing more than a shadowy reminiscence of the more defining, developed and decisive babes-in-the-woods boisterous actions. Even when not just comparing ‘The 5th Wave’ to its better conceived contemporaries, it dos not feel comfortable in its own mediocrity when standing on its own two feet. It is compelling only for its goal in pushing the conveyor belt of SF YA duds to uphold Hollywood’s attempt to kidnap the psyche of young moviegoers looking for the next big screen teen scene sensation to boost box office receipts.

Sorry but there is no need to take out the sci-fi surfing board for the tepid trappings of ‘The 5th Wave’.

The 5th Wave (2016)

Sony Pictures Entertainment/Columbia Pictures

1 hr 53 mins.

Starring: Chloe Grace Moretz, Nick Robinson, Alex Roe, Liev Schreiber, Maria Bello, Ron Livingston, Maika Monroe, Maggie Siff and Zackary Arthur

Directed by: J Blakeson

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Genre: Science Fiction/Teen Fantasy/Drama/Alien Invasion Thriller

Critic’s rating: ** stars (out of 4 stars)

(c) Frank Ochieng 2016


Frank Ochieng has contributed film reviews to SF Crowsnest off and on since 2003. He has been published in other various movie site venues throughout the years. Ochieng has been part of The Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and had written film reviews for The Boston Banner newspaper (USA) and frequently is a media/entertainment panelist on WBZ NewsRadio 1030 AM on "The Jordan Rich Show" in Boston, Massachusetts/USA.

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