THE 5TH WAVE review by Gary Murray – Chloë Grace Moretz takes on a YA adaptation

THE 5TH WAVE review by Gary Murray – Chloë Grace Moretz takes on a YA adaptation


Over the years science fiction films have made a stunning evolution. What were once just bug-eyed monster flicks that played late at night at the drive-ins now have become the major driving force of cinema. Just one look at the top grossing box office in recent years and it’s easy to see science fiction has dominated. It also has formed the newest idea in Hollywood… the franchise feature. It is an idea where no story is told in a few hours but has become just a part of a wider film experience. With that entire concept in mind, here comes the latest to get ducats from the young adult reading masses – The 5th Wave.

The story takes place in a not too distant future, opening with Cassie (Chloe Grace Moretz) running through the woods. She carries a backpack and a military rifle. Coming upon a small store, she goes inside with weapon at the ready. While looking for supplies, she hears something in the back room. She comes upon a man with a hand in his jacket and the other with a handgun. They have a standoff and Cassie gets the guy to drop his gun but when he reaches more into his jacket, she fires. The voice over tells the audience that she is the Cassie who kills.

Then the film goes back to the beginning. Cassie lives the typical high school life with parents and a little brother Sam (Zackary Arthur). Everything changes when a space ship (looking a lot like the ships in Independence Day) appears in the sky. Everyone is excited about the visitors from another world until everything electronic stops working. It is an electro-magnetic pulse that people find out is wave one. Wave two is when the oceans rise up and destroy all the coastal towns. Wave three is a virus carried by all the birds, like the bird flu but much worse, killing off a major portion of the population. But, much like roaches, it takes a consolidated effort to extinguish the last of man. That is the goal of the invading aliens.

Eventually, Chloe and the rest of her family find sanctuary with a survivor outpost. Then one day the military shows up and tells the survivors that the local military base is the new housing for those who are left. The Army puts all the kids into buses and tells the parents that they will be back to reunite. A shocking event happens and Chloe is separated from her brother. The goal for the rest of the film is for Cassie to reunite with her baby brother. Along the way she comes across two different boys. One is her former classmate and the other is an older, mysterious young man.

While the film is mostly entertaining it is by far a perfect work. With every good point, there is a bad one. One doesn’t expect much for a January film and The 5th Wave lives up to that mixed bag of cinema. The biggest problem with the production has to fall right on the small shoulders of Chloe Grace Moretz. The actress has been known for edgy roles in such films as Kick Ass, The Equalizer and Carrie. Unfortunately in this film she just overacts in scene after scene. A stronger director would have commanded the young actress to tone it down a notch or three. It is very hard to be the lead in a major motion picture and it is even harder to command that role. Also, there is little chemistry between the actress and her two male co-stars. No one believed in the heart sparks between anyone. Chloe fails on many levels throughout this work.

The director is J Blakeson and he has a healthier command of the secondary than with his young cast. There are some amazing special effects that look like some of the better disaster flicks in the last few years. The massive destruction is presented with almost a gleeful abandon. Those who go to the film to see massive explosions and carnage will not be disappointed. If the patron takes in films like they are amusement park rides, this will not fail them.

The movie is written by Susannah Grant, Akiva Goldsman and Jeff Pinkner but based on a young adult novel by Rick Yancey. This trio of screenwriters never found the flicker in the story. They may have done well by the novelist but they didn’t do well by the cinema audience. The best crafted of any work is to make it special for a different group as a unique experience and not a rehash of material. As a screenplay, it is lazy writing. While parts of this film are exciting, the overall final product feels like a warmed over version of The Hunger Games or the television show V. The work follows many of the same paths of earlier pictures without delivering anything new. Safe to say if the makers of this movie had believed in it more, they would have put it out during the Christmas season and not in the cold, dog days of January.

THE 5TH WAVE opens January 22, 2016

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