It’s not unusual for a movie trailer to include scenes that don’t make it into the final cut of the movie. Trailers are often produced before final edits on films are completed. This is important because there’s a scene in the first five minutes of the The 5th Wave that not only doesn’t unfold as it does in the trailer, it does so 180 degrees differently. When that happened, I was cautiously optimistic that this movie had just been poorly marketed, and that I was in for something very different from the standard teenage-dystopian-nightmare-love-triangle I was expecting.
Unfortunately, from then on, The 5th Wave delivered everything I was afraid of.
The 5th Wave stars Chloe Grace Moretz as Cassie Sullivan. Your standard teenage girl, she has a crush on a boy she barely talks to, plays soccer, and sings her little brother (Zackary Arthur) to sleep, for some reason. Her normal life changes when an alien craft appears over head. At first, it just sits there, its mere presence being enough to scare the hell out of the local Ohio townspeople. Many people even leave town in fear. Then the five “waves” of the title begin. The first knocks out the power, the second causes a planet-wide earthquake, and the third is a global pandemic. These kill millions, including Cassie’s mother, prompting her father (Rob Livingston) to find someplace safer for his kids.
There’s a camp that survivors have set up, on the theory that there’s safety in numbers, so the family heads there. Everything is fine until the army drives into town in their perfectly working jeeps and humvees. Now, if you think that nobody remarks about the fact that the military has working electronics you’d be wrong, because Cassie says something about it. However, there’s no real explanation given and the subject is dropped. We learn from the military is that the fourth wave involves aliens pulling an Invasion of the Body Snatchers on humans, which means nobody is safe. The children are taken to the military base for safety, meaning Cassie gets separated from her brother, so she has to travel to the base on foot to be reunited with him.
It’s clear to the audience from the first moment that there’s something more going on here, but for some reason, it’s never clear to the characters, until the screenplay calls for them to become curious of course. There are a couple of plot holes in The 5th Wave that are, in the grand scheme of things, minor, but they’re so obvious that you can’t believe they exist. As each new plot point came along that didn’t make sense (and there are plenty of them), I found myself wondering, “Does this not make sense because it’s a clue to the film’s ‘mystery,’ or does it not make sense because the movie couldn’t be bothered to provide an explanation?” To be fair, some of the items do end up being clues to the mystery, but even the solution doesn’t make as much sense as I’d hoped.
Oh, and there’s a romance. Because there has to be a romance. Cassie meets a new boy (Alex Roe) who falls in love with her nearly instantly because even though The 5th Wave has been positioned to spawn multiple movies, there’s no time to build things up. The relationship doesn’t work, the chemistry is barely there, and the dialogue is painful. This goes for nearly every relationship in the film. The requisite love triangle is only hinted at in this movie, but I’m sure if The 5th Wave makes enough money at the box office, we’ll see that develop in the sequel.
So does anything work in The 5th Wave? Chloe Grace Moretz is a solid actress, and though she has nothing to work with, she does the best she can with what she has. The special effects work is good and the action sequences are good once we finally get to them.
If there’s anything new under the sun in the YA world, unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to exist in The 5th Wave. If you’ve seen this story once, you’ve seen it all, and the new coat of paint in the form of aliens does nothing to really hide that.