THE 5TH WAVE (Sony)
Dir. J Blakeson, Script. Susannah Grant, Akiva Goldsman & Jeff Pinkner
Cast: Chloe Grace Moretz, Nick Robinson, Alex Roe, Liev Schrieber
Plot: 74 years after the war, the great nation of Panem…no wait – I got it wrong again. I always get these two mixed up…
About an hour into The 5th Wave, the latest attempt by Hollywood to copy its own young adult novel adaptation fetish in an even more generic manner, I began to experience the symptoms of watching a movie that you know with every fibre of your being is pointless. Deja vu? Check. An almost paralyzing boredom? You betcha. A strange urge to study the LED lights embedded into the stairs of the screening room? Don’t even need to tell you the answer to that.
CHLOE GRACE MORETZ SPEARHEADS A NEW ATTEMPT AT CREATING A HIT YOUNG ADULT FRANCHISE TO FILL THE POST-HUNGER GAMES HOLE
It goes without saying that The 5th Wave is not an awards contender: it’s not really anything. Chloe Grace Moretz stars as Cassie Sullivan – a teddy-bear (I will get to that bastard in due course) carrying Katniss Everdeen knock-off who finds herself caught up in an alien invasion. These aliens, known as ‘The Others’, have attacked Earth via a series of deadly ‘waves’, mainly composited of unexplained geological phenomena and cheap CGI. After her parents are killed and her brother is separated from her, Moretz sets out to find him by hiking for many miles through deep forest.
As trees are made out of wood, Moretz’s camouflage is perfect. While I admit she doesn’t have much to work with, Moretz fails to lift her dialogue or character into any kind of investable figure. In fact, the few moments in which Moretz does flesh her character out come in scenes which are astonishingly contrived. You see, and you probably knew this already to be honest, there’s a love interest. And even after they meet in circumstances which I found uncomfortable, in a world where we’re told anybody could be an alien (Apparently they can just possess human beings), Moretz instantly trusts Evan Walker (Alex Roe) once she sees him chop some wood up and, seeing the plethora of pine that Moretz herself has strived to achieve, gets slightly aroused. Because if a man can work the land, then of course he is telling the truth.
CASSIE IS A NORMAL SIXTEEN YEAR OLD (KATNISS EVERDEEN & TRIS PRIOR) THROWN INTO THE APOCALYPSE
This is just one of the many misjudged scenes to be found in The 5th Wave – some are forced, some are cringeworthy, some (forewarning: when Maika Monroe comes on screen, prepare yourself) provoke feelings of schadenfreude. The forced scenes are mainly romance ones – writer Susannah Grant seemingly decided to jump the character development phase and just get to the point, but at a time so wrong it takes you right out of the film. As well as this, the whole thing (co-written by Akiva Goldsman and Jeff Pinkner, who are not escaping my wrath) feels slack – its filled with poor storytelling. The decision to put the audience through the alien invasion as a narrated backstory rather than the actual story removes all thrill and tension from the scenes in which its obvious Sony have spent the most on effects.
NICK ROBINSON LEADS A DISAPPOINTINGLY FORGETTABLE SUPPORTING CAST
The visuals are pretty standard – director J Blakeson helms a couple of okay sequences, but on the whole visual storytelling is eschewed here in favour of Liev Schrieber, playing U.S. Army Col. Tell-the-audience-the-plot. With the exception of a couple of one-to-one scenes with Ben Parish (Cassie’s pre-pocalypse crush, played straight by Jurassic World’s Nick Robinson, who ends up in the heat of the fight against the Others), Schrieber really doesn’t have to try too hard – he does his job acceptably. The rest of the supporting cast are predominantly unmemorable, with the possible exception of It Follows star Maika Monroe, who is able to give some light depth to an extremely tough girl. The score, provided by Henry Jackman, feels like an off-cut of Hans Zimmer’s Amazing Spider-Man 2 work, while the whole sound mix can often go oddly quiet at important moments.
However, the reason that The 5th Wave irks me so is because it’s a checklist. It tries to hit every YA trope, so much so that the whole film suffers. In The Hunger Games, Katniss has a Mockingjay pin – a symbol of her strength and defiance. The 5th Wave has a teddy bear that Chloe Grace Moretz must return to her little brother. But while the pin gives The Hunger Games depth, the teddy bear is the cornerstone of the entire story. A visual point is made of Cassie Sullivan stuffing this teddy bear into a bag to make sure she still has it more than once. In fact, the plot of the whole picture is not fighting back against alien intruders, but a plushee bear being reunited with its long lost owner.
CHLOE GRACE MORETZ LOOKS UP AND SEES ANY POTENTIAL STAR VEHICLE FOR HER FADE INTO THE NIGHT
Sentimentality aside however, The 5th Wave isn’t a complete black hole – a couple of competent plot twist help the plot to just about limp over the line, and a squad of child soldiers (featuring Robinson, Monroe and others) training to kill the Others have a good camaraderie that provides a little bit of humour amidst all of the overt seriousness YA has to offer. So if you’re looking for a film that’s totally generic, uninspired, full of dull performances and dialogue found wasting away in an advert for Oak Furniture Land, distributed by a studio with an identity crisis so great that it feels the need to shoehorn the fact that they made the Spider-Man movies not once, but TWICE, then I strongly encourage you see The 5th Wave. After all, those LED lights need some love once in a while: I can guarantee an hour in you’ll be carefully studying the flashes.