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The 5th Wave Crashes and Burns into Dystopian Oblivion

  • Christa Banister Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • 2016 21 Jan
  • COMMENTS
<i>The 5th Wave</i> Crashes and Burns into Dystopian Oblivion

DVD Release Date: May 3, 2016
Theatrical Release Date: January 22, 2016
Rating: PG-13 (for violence and destruction, some sci-fi thematic elements, language and brief teen partying)
Genre: Dystopian/Young Adult
Run Time: 112 min.
Director: J Blakeson
Cast: Chloe Grace Moretz, Liev Schreiber, Matthew Zuk, Gabriela Lopez, Bailey Anne Borders, Ron Livingston, Nick Robinson, Maggie Siff, Zackary Arthur, E. Roger Mitchell, Maika Monroe

Considering how laughably bad The 5th Wave is (think Twilight for the apocalypse, minus all the vampire intrigue), one could only hope the young adult trilogy by Rick Yancey that it was based on was far, far better. That, after all, would be the only plausible explanation for why this big fat dystopian mess was greenlighted in the first place.

It’s not that Chloe Grace Moretz (If I Stay) doesn’t give it her best effort. She's the perfect brand of spitfire for a save-the-world scenario and conveys pathos in a thoroughly believable way. Trouble is, the poorly constructed script lets Moretz down from the first frame. Not only does the story begin very awkwardly without a proper introduction to the characters or the troubled world they now inhabit, but a suspension of disbelief the size of California is required to buy into any of it. For instance, what kind of lunkheads would bother sending their kids to school when there's a gigantic, and rather ominous, spacecraft lurking above? Wouldn't the protective instinct to take shelter far, far away naturally kick in?

Leaps of logic like the aforementioned are plentiful in The 5th Wave, and anyone with even a lick of sense will find the whole experience frustrating. Worse yet, for such well-worn territory that involves young people being forced to survive a dreary dystopian world, The 5th Wave doesn't break any new ground. Everything from the "waves" of worldwide destruction to the "big secret" uncovered by the teen survivors to the way the alien beings are called "others" (remember LOST?), is lifted from far better source material. And just to cement the sheer banality of it all, the writers also throw in a lame love triangle for good measure.

Before the world fell spectacularly to pieces, before Cassie (Moretz) became a gun-toting assassin who trusts nobody (well, unless it's a cute boy, which is downright embarrassing), she attended the sort of high school parties always featured in teen movies, the kind with no shortage of red cups, and where the boy the leading lady likes is way out of reach.

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Before hardly any screen time has passed, high school crushes and what to wear to the big dance give way to actual high stakes drama. Such as: should Cassie help the man (Matthew Zuk) who claims to be bleeding behind a locked door in the local convenience store? Should she return for the teddy bear her little brother Sam (Zackary Arthur, TV's Transparent) left behind at the refugee camp?

The answers to these and so many of the film's questions are painfully obvious. Chances are, you'll be at least five steps ahead of the writers at all times. Just as in horror movies where the dingbat protagonists shouldn't open the scary basement doors, everyone in The 5th Wave - minus the real hero of the story, the wisecracking, street-smart Ringer (Maika Monroe, It Follows) - will do precisely the opposite of what they should. And that, along with special effects that aren't at all special and a sheer absence of plot, leave the viewer with a movie that's probably not even worth a rental.

After The Hunger Games franchise (which only got worse as the sequels kept coming), Divergent and its lackluster follow-up, The Giver, the two Maze Runner films, Ender’s Game and a slew of others, it's clear that it takes far more than a plucky youngster wrestling with the apocalypse to make a compelling movie. And because The 5th Wave doesn't bring anything new to the genre or even deliver subpar action thrills, it's nothing more than a vehicle for unintentional laughs that feels very been-there-seen-that.

CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):

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  • Drugs/Alcohol: Teenage drinking at a party
  • Language/Profanity: The PG-13 allotment of f-words (two), plus shi- and as- show up every once in a while. Exclamations of God's name.
  • Sex/Nudity: Kissing. The strong implication that two teens had sex. Sexual innuendos including references to playing strip poker and end-of-the-world sex.
  • Violence: A high body count with corpses strewn en masse. People die in a variety of unpleasant ways including drowning, strangulation, disease and by gunshot. Children wield guns and are forced to kill other humans. Cassie shoots a man and later on, is shot in the leg herself. A group of soldiers dig out the tracking devices from the back of their necks (some blood).

Publication date: January 21, 2016


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