Film Review – The 5th Wave

The 5th Wave

The 5th Wave

This movie doesn’t deserve a completed review.

In what’s supposed to be one of the key emotional scenes of The 5th Wave (2016), a character walks up to another who is thoughtfully looking into the sky. “What are you looking at?” they ask. “The stars,” the other replies. Both characters have serious looks on their faces, as though what they talked about has the weight of importance hanging over it.

The problem is: this scene takes place in broad daylight.

That’s just one of the countless examples of stupidity happening in this latest YA adaptation. The best kind of science fiction uses their eccentric setups as an allegory for our modern world. Invasion by alien forces provide us the opportunity to examine ourselves as a civilization. However, being that this is the worst kind of YA movie, all of that potential is chucked out the window for angsty teenagers stuck in love triangles in the midst of all out war.

5th Wave Movie Still 1

This is an awful film, by any standard. It lacks any kind of consistency in tone or coherence. Director J Blakeson and writers Susanna Grant, Akiva Goldsman, and Jeff Pinkner adapt Rick Yancey’s novel in hilariously bad fashion. The narrative is all over the place. In a story where alien beings take over the planet and can assume human form (ala Invasion of the Body Snatchers), the production keyed on a ridiculous romantic arc. Cassie (Chloë Grace Moretz) was separated from her family soon after the first attacks (or “waves” as they’re called), and struggles to reunite with her brother Sam (Zachary Arthur). But all that’s put on hold so that Cassie can stare googily-eyed at the hunky Evan (Alex Roe) as he washes his well defined abs in a nearby river. This is a guy she just met on the road and knows nothing about, but can’t help the temptation to explore his celestial equator.

And that’s what this is really about: a teenager hitting puberty and coming to terms with their sexual impulses. All that crap about being annihilated by an unknown danger is just a backdrop for a lead character as she figures out who she wants to be with – Six Pack Guy or the Cute Football Player (Nick Robinson) who she’s been crushing on for years. I guess what they say is true, when people are placed in desperate situations their need for emotional (and physical) connection amplifies. What better way to see that play out then between high school teenagers! I felt icky just writing that.

If that premise alone doesn’t wet your appetite, we also have child soldiers! Through an idiotic contrivance, the surviving children are recruited into the army and placed on the front line of battle. Kids ranging from nine to eighteen are given fully automatic weapons and sent out to kill. This is a major misstep of a regular YA trope. Because young adult stories are aimed for younger readers, the main characters are put in positions where they gain power and make a difference, thus injecting the same feeling into the reader. But the execution here is so misguided that we literally see preteens dressed in full camouflage, wearing bulletproof vests, and firing realistic guns twice their size. Instead of kids going on a grand adventure like Star Wars, they’re sent into the hell of Saving Private Ryan (1998).

5th Wave Movie Still 2

Bless Chloë Grace Moretz’s heart. She’s trying her darnedest to perform with material well below her skill set. She does everything asked of her convincingly. Whether it’s sharing an intimate moment with another character or reacting to a large-scale event that’s obviously rendered through computer imagery, there isn’t a time where she comes off as false. There isn’t an instance where her character doesn’t believe what she’s saying – she plays Cassie with complete sincerity. But she’s the lone bright spot in a hurricane of bad dialogue, goofy special effects, and plot twists we can see coming from a mile away.

The 5th Wave could be an entertaining experience with a bunch of friends and a whole lot of alcohol. There’s a drinking game just waiting to be played here. Unintentional funny dialogue? Drink! Unconvincing destruction of major cities? Drink! Actually, come to think of it maybe it would be wise not to do that, because by the time the credits roll everyone would be plastered. This is so bad in so many ways it would be impossible to list them all out here. The further it goes along, the more you have to throw your hands up and laugh at how dumb everything is. It would be better if this were a parody of YA movies, rather than an earnest attempt. During the screening I attended, I noticed a person lean over to their loved one and say, “I’m sorry.” Yeah, I’d be sorry too, because…




Allen is a moviegoer based out of Seattle, Washington. His hobbies include dancing, playing the guitar, and, of course, watching movies.

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