The 5th Wave (2016)
The 5th Wave (2016)

Genre: Sci-Fi Adventure Running Time: 1 hr. 52 min.

Release Date: January 22nd, 2016 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: J Blakeson Actors: Chloe Grace Moretz, Nick Robinson, Ron Livingston, Maggie Siff, Zackary Arthur, Liev Schreiber, Maika Monroe, Maria Bello




ombies are invading modern cinema and television to extremes of late (“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” arrives just two weeks from this film’s release), so it’s no surprise that “The 5th Wave” mirrors that horror subgenre’s key elements. Despite its adaptation from Rick Yancey’s young adult, science-fiction novel, many of the designs and inclusions, particularly when it comes to environments and motivations, are unmistakably derivative of “The Walking Dead” and other popular zombie properties. A few moments, including the opening scene, adhere so strictly to the zeitgeist’s infatuation with common perceptions of the zombie apocalypse that “The 5th Wave” becomes nearly indistinguishable. That is, until some of the teen romance kicks in.

Although the film employs the tired device of starting straight into a tense sequence before circling back to a proper introduction, there is, thankfully, a decently detailed genesis for the end of the world. In Ohio, Cassie Sullivan (Chloe Grace Moretz) is just an average teen, playing soccer, attending parties, and trying not to embarrass herself in front of the boy she likes – Ben Parish (Nick Robinson). Like everyone around her, she has no idea that one random, conventional day in high school will suddenly become the last glimmer of normalcy.

A massive alien spaceship appears over the city, exactly like something out of “Independence Day.” The “galactic party crashers” soon make their intentions clear: humankind is in their way. The initial attack, dubbed the “1st wave,” is an electromagnetic pulse that stops all electrical items and, by extension, even utilities like running water. The 2nd wave comes in the form of geological disturbances, including skyscraper-high tsunamis that decimate islands and coastal towns. The 3rd wave is a modified avian flu that wipes out most of the remaining survivors (thanks to the statistic of approximately 75 birds for every one person on earth). The 4th wave is quickly revealed to be an actual invasion, where disguised alien soldiers attempt to pick off the holed-up human resistance. Before the 5th wave can be hypothesized, Cassie becomes separated from her little brother Sammy (Zackary Arthur), prompting her to undergo a hazardous, 80-mile trek to the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, where children have been corralled for safekeeping.

Presented from the point of view of a teen girl isn’t original, but it allows for a strong female role in the hands of the charismatic Moretz. And fortunately, she isn’t toting around her toddler sibling during traumatizing run-ins with paranoid humans and alien “others” alike, which could have become quite annoying. Most of the other players also approach their personas with seriousness, which is a rare and valuable quality in young adult pictures.

But, in the film’s efforts to include the obligatory teen romance (or love triangle), “The 5th Wave” saunters dangerously close to the silliness of the “Twilight” franchise. When the characters spy on each other bathing, it’s enough to inspire belly laughs. The child-soldier-training routine also grows tiresome, especially as the maturer subject matter clashes with the ridiculously young age of the absurdly named Teacup (a timid girl of about 7), who is forced to tote a machinegun and engage in physically demanding, strategic combat against adults. At least the secret of the 5th wave is moderately clever, though subsequent twists reveal exponential simplemindedness in scripting. Plus, it’s enough to drive one mad when the movie ends with absolutely no resolution – due to the basis on a planned trilogy, though most audiences are likely to be aware of this going in.

– Mike Massie

  • 4/10