THE 5th WAVE
J. Blakeson had previously directed The Disappearance of Alice Creed (2009) and co-written the screenplay for The Descent Part 2 (2009). The script has some high-power names, including Akiva Goldsman whose perpetual dabbling in the genre has always ended in a trail of atrocities every time he has either written or produced something that has ended up being written about here. See his scripts for the likes of Batman Forever (1995), Batman & Robin (1997), Practical Magic (1998), I, Robot (2004), I Am Legend (2007), Insurgent (2015), The Dark Tower (2017) and Rings (2017), his producing Jonah Hex (2010) and Childhoods End (2015), as well as directing Winters Tale (2014). Goldsman co-writes with Susannah Grant who has delivered screenplays for Pocahontas (1995), EverAfter (1998) and Erin Brockovich (2000), among others.
The downside of this wave of Young Adult films is that the ambition of tackling a trilogy or series of books often does not come off as the filmmakers intend and the genre is littered with a host of series that went nowhere see the likes of I Am Number Four (2011), Beautiful Creatures (2013), The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (2013), The Giver (2014), Vampire Academy (2014), Fallen (2016) and Maximum Ride (2016). The 5th Wave is almost certainly likely to be another of these it was dumped by the studio in the midst of the January dead season at the box-office and opened only in sixth place that weekend, earning a pitiful $10 million in US release. From this you get the clear indication that we wont be seeing any of the sequels up on screen anytime soon.
The 5th Wave is an alien invasion drama. In the first twenty minutes of the story, Rick Yancey throws in a host of catastrophes everything from EMP blackouts of technology to tsunamis and a super Bird Flu virus. It feels as though a writer sat down and tried to create an epic story by upping the scale of the disaster and rather absurdly tossing together as many scenarios as possible. Thereafter the film settles in as a variant on the body snatchers film one is constantly reminded of The Puppet Masters (1994). Even then, the story comes with the improbable mid-film twist that reveals that the children have been recruited as soldiers and are being fooled to believe that the surviving humans they are eliminating are body snatchers.
The other downside is that J. Blakeson does extremely little to engage you in the drama taking place on the screen. It is not that the Young Adult drama is not capable of tackling the alien invasion story if anyone tried to adapt/remake The Tripods (1984-6) as a big screen YA trilogy, I would bet money they would have a surefire winner on their hands. That said, The 5th Wave is more along the lines of a homeland invasion story like Red Dawn (1984), Tomorrow When the War Began (2010) and How I Live Now (2013) than anything approaching an alien invasion film like Independence Day (1996).
Everything that happens in The 5th Wave feels like it is dull and without affect. There are some very mild action scenes and one or two big effects scenes at the start but all of it feels exceedingly routine. There is nothing in the film that leaves you feeling engaged in terms of drama, caring about the urgency of the things the characters are fighting for or feel the tragedies they are going through. Indeed, the film seems more invested in setting up a love triangle between Chloe Grace Moretz, Alex Roe and Nick Robinson, something that seems de rigeur for almost any YA series see Twilight, The Hunger Games, The Host (2013) than tackling the alien threat. The most laughable of all are the military training scenes, which have a wimpiness that feel written and directed by someone who has never even visited a boot camp. The whole point of a grunts in training piece is to show the initially greenhorn characters going through something that turns them into tough and mature fighting machines.
We have Chloe Grace Moretz as Rick Yanceys heroine. I have greatly admired Moretzs performance in films like Kick-Ass (2010) and sequel and Let Me In (2010); it is just that she feels swallowed up here. What the role needed is someone who projects the determined intensity and moral drive of a Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games or of Shailene Woodley in the Divergent series; here Moretz is just someone filling the part and leaves no imprint on it at all. The most interesting and alive character in the show is actually Maika Monroes Ringer who gets to make a fantastic entrance only to be quickly watered down to become just another member of the group by the end of the show.