We’re used to science fiction stories being derivative to one degree or the other, but copy-and-pasting CGI spaceship models has to be some sort of new record when it comes to unoriginality. Oh yes, dear readers. I’m going there straight away. The alien spacecraft shown in The 5th Wave is nearly identical to the mothership from Neil Blomkamp‘s District 9. As if it wasn’t bad enough that this movie is little more than another addition to the ever expanding pool of Young Adult novel-to-film adaptations about teenage romance in a sci-fi/Fantasy setting. Get in line behind Divergent and The Host, guys.
Let’s be fair, though. At least this film managed to get an actual teenager to play the lead teen, as is often rare with these kind of movies. Chloë Grace Moretz, that absolute treasure, plays Cassie Sullivan. The version of our world that she lives on has been badly damaged due to several waves of attacks from invading space aliens. As the movie opens, a fifth wave is impending. See what they did there?
The first wave was to take out most of Earth’s electricity, the second one was to cause natural disasters of different sorts and the third was to spread a deadly virus. As of the fourth wave, the aliens have begun body-snatching people. The main plot involves Cassie trying to find her little brother, who has been collected by the military in order to become a child soldier in humanity’s seemingly hopeless battle against the invaders. None of this sounds too bad on paper – in fact, the early scenes that show the first waves of the invasion are often genuinely gripping – but Hollywood finds a way. Especially when simpler lifeforms need to have their fantasies realized and dough needs to be made.
You guessed it, dear readers. Cassie gets not one, but two different boys to choose from – ‘cuz that’s about as original and clever as you need to be if the target audience you’ve picked are also huge Stephenie Meyer fans. Yes, even when humanity has been sent back to the Stone Age by extraterrestrial beings and there should be more important things to worry about, young female heroes still require their share of shallow love stories in which the “chemistry” mostly consists of the girl in question staring at some conventionally attractive guy’s abs. The less said about the actual dialogue they share, the better.
First on the boys list we have the enigmatic Evan (Alex Roe), whom Cassie shortly learns is actually a disguised alien (aren’t they all?). Then there’s her crush from highschool, Ben (Nick Robinson of Jurassic World), who seems like a better choice, even if it would have been much more interesting if Cassie found out that she actually has a lot in common with the alien and ultimately falls deeply in love with it. Thankfully, a little movie I made not too long ago plays that idea straight, so go watch that instead, folks.
Other characters include a colonel portrayed by Liev Schreiber and a character named Dumbo played by Tony Revolori of The Grand Budapest Hotel fame. Apparently he got the name because of his ears, which is always nice. Speaking of names, the aliens in this are referred to as “The Others”. Again, what a creative little thing this is. Let’s hope no-one in the audience has seen Lost or read A Song of Ice and Fire.
I know very little about the book on which this movie is based, although its Wikipedia article claims that it was pretty well-received when it came out, further reinforcing that we should take most things that Wikipedia says with a grain of salt. A supposedly favorable review of it states that “it should do for aliens what Twilight did for vampires”. Even if that’s one of the most self-defeating excuses for a “positive” criticism I’ve ever read in my entire life, once gain, I already did that. It was called Beauty and the Alien. It is the largest amount of time I’ve ever wasted and I’m already making a sequel.
Nevertheless, there’s apparently more than one book. In fact, the third one is coming out in just a couple of months. I’m not fully sure yet how well The 5th Wave will do at the box office, no matter how many points it fulfils on the “tween-pleasing” checklist, but if it performs well enough to get sequels based on the other novels, how much do you wanna bet that the third one will be split up into two bloated chapters for no other reason than the fact that two movie tickets cost more than one? Either way, I’m hoping it has more clicking prawns and South African swearing.
Now that I’ve evened out my blog a little as I’m the midst of reviewing this year’s Oscar nominees, I will be forced to give this movie a mediocre 2/5 rating. I would have closed this review off with a snarky statement about us ourselves already being in the “5th wave” of bad films based on romantic Young Adult sci-fi stories, but it feels like we’ve come a lot further than wave 5.