The 5th Wave Review: A Surprisingly Predictable Alien Invasion Love Triangle Movie

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Tweetable Takeaway: Predictable plotting and painful dialogue make The 5th Wave a film not worth invading. 


If we’ve learned anything from Hollywood, the day an alien invasion occurs will likely involve the intruders parking their giant spacecraft right above our major cities and just sitting there. Featuring a ship straight out of District 9, that’s how THE 5TH WAVE begins. And much in the vein of Independence Day, the aliens make sure we know they’re serious by taking out Earth’s famous landmarks first. Most of The 5th Wave’s ideas come from earlier, better alien invasion flicks along with all the tropes found in young adult novels. Love triangle? You bet. Plot that conveniently centers around children and teens? Of course. Angsty stares from across the room? At least two dozen. Coming from a trilogy of books by Rick Yancy, we’re due for at least two more movies to finish the story. It’s not entirely out of the question a war with werewolves may come into play at some point. Although The 5th Wave has a decent plot with a handful of twists, it all comes at the expense of painfully obvious dialogue, and predictable, derivative moments.

And possibly the most derivative of them all is the voiceover of our protagonist, Cassie Sullivan (played by Chloe Grace Moretz), telling us that she was just a normal human girl before all this started. Is there any line more obvious to describe one’s life before an alien invasion? In any case, a ‘normal’ life Cassie leads before the aliens come and hang out in the sky. As it will no doubt happen, at first everyone is looking down at their phones as the invasion goes viral quicker than a new Beyoncé music video. We then cut to Cassie and her family sitting in a living room watching the live news of the alien structure floating right above film tax credit-friendly Atlanta. At this point, one of Cassie’s parents notes that the alien craft’s location should be right where they live. Cassie, her parents, and her brother Sam run outside and see the giant freaking ship right there in plain sight! Did none of the four happen to notice this ship on their way home? Have they just been hiding inside with all the windows drawn? It’s a strange logic for the film to employ, and certainly not the last instance of confounding plot progression.

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The film gets its title from the waves in which the aliens unleash their attack. First wave is a planet-wide electromagnetic pulse that takes out everything that runs on electricity. Second wave involves earthquakes and flooding. Third wave involves the bird flu transferring to humans and wiping out the majority of the population. Up until this point, okay, sure, I’ll buy it. However, the meat of the movie’s story involves the fourth and fifth waves in which aliens inhabit humans and begin picking off the rest. This is where all the double-crossing, distrust and melodrama begins. We’ve seen what the aliens are capable of doing; they can cause natural disasters of huge proportions and engineer an immensely effective biological warfare, all within a couple of weeks. So why, suddenly, is there this messy, unreliable and convoluted strategy implemented in the final two waves? Surely the aliens could have created a second disease to kill off that small population who managed to survive the bird flu. It’s with this in mind the film calls for a huge heaping of suspension of disbelief.

But sure, we’ll go along with it so long as there’s some great characters and action sequences somewhere in the film, right? Unfortunately, there’s some truly painful on the nose dialogue and cringe-worthy scenes to pad out the rest of the film. Plenty of characters scream “No!” dramatically and repeatedly. There’s the aforementioned love triangle, including the forbidden love we’ve seen countless times. Characters awkwardly stare at their crushes. Cassie even happens upon one of her hunk crushes, Evan (Alex Roe) as he bathes in a river–a scene that gives Kevin Costner in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves a run for his money. And of course, there’s a twist that should be imminently obvious to anyone who watches movies on a semi-regular basis.

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What this all adds up to is a movie that fails to engage on multiple levels. The 5th Wave has good intentions, but squanders it on poorly written dialogue and teen movie clichés. Even supposing The 5th Wave had come before the Twilight films and the Bella, Edward, and Jacob love triangles, it still would be marred by its predictable plotting and characters in whom we have a hard time investing. And for goodness sake, somebody put a no parking sign up in the sky already.

I give The 5th Wave 2 river bathing hunks out of 5

Score:  2 out of 5

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Wil lives, breathes, and loves movies. On applications he will often list the movie theater as his second residence, and the usher as his emergency contact.
Twitter: @TheCantaLoper

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