What It’s About
New to the neverending parade of movies about teenagers who save the world in a horrible future is “The 5th Wave,” adapted from a young adult novel by Doug Yancey. No zombies or vampires here, though. The aliens have landed instead.
Not to be outdone in the popular post-apocalypse fiction genre, the plot crams a plethora of peril that seems derivative of other movies, blending pieces of “The War of the Worlds,” “Alien,” “Starship Troopers,” “Contagion” and “The Day The Earth Stood Still.”
By calling aliens who infiltrate the human population “The Others,” it also brings to mind the TV show “Lost,” which coincidentally co-screenwriter Jeff Pinkner worked on for a few episodes. Mashing up other fiction in a movie whose sole purpose is to cash in on the coattails of “The Hunger Games,” “Divergent” and “The Maze Runners” is lazy, and it shows.
Cassie Sullivan (Chloe Grace Moretz) is an ordinary high school girl in Ohio who adapts to the craziness when aliens unleash terror attacks in waves — an electro-magnetic field that halts power; causes floods and earthquakes; a killer virus; and then a ground war. The goal is to wipe out humanity but take what they need, too.
Cassie is separated from her little brother Sam (adorable Zackary Arthur in movie debut), and does everything she can to find her way back to him. The kids are rounded up to become an army, protecting survivors from “The Others.” But just whom can people trust?
Focusing on the teen demographic,” this latest entry cast appealing young stars, but adults may find the dialogue groan-out-loud bad.
“I’ll be right back” is even a line. And you know what that means.
I’ve sung the praises of Chloe Grace Moretz since her 2010 dynamic turn as Mindy McCready in “Kick-Ass,” and she’s growing into an outstanding young actress.
In her wheelhouse, she was angsty teens in remakes of “Carrie” and “Dark Shadows,” and the comatose cello prodigy in “If I Stay,” but she also has appeared in more challenging fare, including the critically acclaimed “Hugo,” “Let Me In” and “Clouds of Sils Maria.” Let’s hope she gets to show more of a range, although she’s fine as the plucky Cassie, whose gumption –and humanity – will keep her alive as she roams the ravaged land (looks like a set from “The Walking Dead.”)
Cassie is the creamy center in between the man cookies — heartthrobs Ben Parrish (Nick Robinson of “Jurassic World”) and Evan Walker (Alex Roe), who chops wood with an axe and bathes in a stream for the beefcake shots.
Inexplicably, good actors inhabit the central casting roles — righteous Army officer Liev Schrieber (“Ray Donovan”), by-the-book nurse Maria Bello (“A History of Violence”) and loving dad Ron Livingston (“The Conjuring”). Maggie Siff (“Billions”) is seen briefly as the caring mother-nurse.
The cast is believable even in the most ludicrous of situations.
What Doesn’t Work
The film’s momentum, which had laid the foundation fairly well in the beginning, soon goes south after all the good adults are killed. Gaps in the plot widen, rather than narrow.
This is the kind of predictable film where everything is clumsily handled. You can see the plot twists coming. When danger lurks, the loud ominous-sounding music swells. The scenes shot in natural light make it hard to distinguish who’s who, and the special effects are cheesy.
Director J Blakeson is in over his head. Even with respected screenwriters Susannah Grant and Akiva Golds taking a stab at the adaptation, the dialogue is painfully generic.
If we’re near the end of the world, and hunky teens are our only hope, God help us all.
‘The Fifth Wave’
- Director: J Blakeson
- Cast: Chloe Grace Moretz, Nick Robinson, Alex Roe, Liev Schrieber, Ron Livingston, Maria Bello, Zackary Arthur, Maika Monroe
- Rated PG-13 (violence and destruction, some sci-fi thematic elements, language and brief teen partying)
- 112 minutes