Action Adaptation

'The 5th Wave' Film Review: When aliens attack... teenagers

January 21, 2016Ben MK

The past few years have seen more than its fair share of movies depicting teenage protagonists facing off against werewolves, murderous totalitarian regimes and dystopian futures. Now comes the latest outlet for cinematic adolescent angst: The 5th Wave, a film that pits its spunky young characters against a brand new kind of threat — an army of extraterrestrials.

Following in the footsteps of movies like Twilight, The Hunger Games and Divergent, The 5th Wave is the latest young-adult book series to hit the big screen, and stars ChloĆ« Grace Moretz as Cassie Sullivan, an Ohio teenager whose world is turned upside down when aliens stake a claim on our planet. Now, after surviving the aliens' first four waves of attack, Cassie must team up with a mysterious — and hunky — stranger named Evan (Alex Roe) to rescue the only family she's got left, her younger brother Sam (Zackary Arthur), from the fifth and final wave.

Directed by J Blakeson and adapted by Susannah Grant, Akiva Goldsman and Jeff Pinkner from author Rick Yancey's book of the same name, the film initially positions itself as something of a cross between Independence Day and The Road, as an ominous alien ship hovers in the sky while what's left of humanity hunkers down in the middle of the woods. However, its semi-unique tone soon gives way to something much more familiar when the U.S. Army, led by a hard-nosed Colonel named Vosch (Liev Schrieber), shows up, recruiting the kids to join the legion of child soldiers being assembled to battle the alien invasion.

The result ends up just another story of kids rising up against a larger oppressor, as a few of these kids (including Jurassic World's Nick Robinson, The Guest's Maika Monroe and The Grand Budapest Hotel's Tony Revolori) invariably figure out that not everything is as it seems, marking the beginnings of yet another been-there-done-that rebellion. Meanwhile, Cassie, who's been separated from her brother, struggles to make her way to find him. But the closer she gets to doing so, the closer the movie gets to feeling more like another cookie-cutter teen thriller, with characters and situations copy-and-pasted from the book-to-film adaptations that have come before.

The worst parts of the movie are undoubtedly any sections concerning the romance that inevitably blooms between Cassie and Evan, as such scenes (like one in which Cassie gazes upon a shirtless Evan, or one that has him professing his love for her) are handled with such undeniable cheesiness that it will leave audiences giggling rather than swooning. Even worse, the laughable nature of the romantic subplot makes it hard to tell if the movie's other attempts at humor are intentional or not, such as in a scene where Cassie smashes a female opponent's face into a window, leaving behind a web-like crack — and a lipstick kiss — on the glass.

Otherwise, The 5th Wave does feature a rather respectable cast that includes Maria Bello and Ron Livingston, which only makes it all the more confounding why these actors would agree to appear in such an ill-conceived and poorly-executed film in the first place. In the end, though, it may be the fans of Yancey's novel who will decide the ultimate fate of this movie adaptation, which has very obviously been designed as a franchise-starter. If they don't warm to it, then it's highly unlikely that we'll be seeing these characters on-screen again.

The 5th Wave releases January 22nd, 2016 from Sony Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for violence and destruction, some sci-fi thematic elements, language and brief teen partying. Its runtime is 1 Hr. 52 Mins.

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