Nobody forced me to see The 5th Wave. I went of my own volition. Why? I actually read and fractionally liked the 2013 novel by Rick Yancey that put some muscle into yet another dystopian tale of teenagers facing the end of the world. The protagonist, Cassie Sullivan, is an independent Ohio high school student with the usual yen for boys but without the need for some dude to define her. I never moved on to the next book in Yancey’s trilogy, 2014’s The Infinite Sea (the third, The Last Star, is due later this year), but there was something in The 5th Wave that seemed salvageable when and if the book made it to the big screen. I was wrong.
Despite the strong presence of Kick-Ass star Chloe Grace Moretz as Cassie, the movie is selling the same old YA yada yada yada that made phenoms of Twilight and Divergent. You know, the story of how a plucky girl must conform to a pecking order that puts global annihilation behind deciding between two hot guys — the football hero (Nick Robinson) or the stranger in the woods (Alex Roe). What a shame. Moretz seems ready to rumble. Working from a screenplay by Susannah Grant, Akiva Goldsman and Alex Pinkner, director J Blakeson (The Disappearance of Alice Creed) doesn’t dwaddle setting up the premise. By that I mean, what’s a girl to do when an alien spaceship starts hovering over her suburban street?
That’s a cue for the aliens, called “The Others,” to start with their waves. No. 1 turns off the power. No. 2 brings on earthquakes. No. 3 decimates with a virus. No. 4 involves the Others taking human form to finish off any survivors. And No. 5 is the final battle, the one that drags the movie down into a quicksand of clichés. Parental guidance gets squeezed when her mom (Maggie Siff, so good on Billions) and dad (Ron Livingston, so wasted here) are quickly dispatched ,and Cassie must protect her kid brother (Zackary Arthur). She thinks she doesn’t need help. But the script says she does, from the quarterback and the stranger.
Liev Schreiber and Maria Bello show up as military types. But the only standout in the cast besides Moretz is Maika Monroe (It Follows) as a Goth fighter with no patience for pussies. Jeez, if only Monroe and Mortez had been allowed to take over the movie. Instead, The 5th Wave is another dystopian washout.