Film review: THE 5TH WAVE, from ‘Built For Speed’

The 5th Wave, which is based on the first book in a trilogy by Rick Yancey, is yet another post-apocalyptic teen lit/ sci-fi/ action/ fantasy/ romance. Next to Marvel Comics adaptations this genre is fast becoming the most mind-numbingly familiar fixture in our cinemas. While succumbing to many of the teen-lit clichés, The Fifth Wave has a least a few elements that distinguish it from the pack.

This film has the advantage over its otherwise suspiciously similar teen lit brethren in that it actually shows the apocalypse that befalls the earth instead of just plonking us in the aftermath of some global catastrophe. Here the calamitous event is an alien invasion. As the film’s title suggests, the invasion occurs in a series of waves the first four of which include electromagnetic pulses that fry technology and natural disasters designed to soften up the earth people. The final phase is the ground invasion although it’s not quite in the Mars Attacks/ War of the Worlds mould, it’s much sneakier. Oddly, Earth’s (or at least America’s) children and teens are recruited to battle the unearthly fiends. Amid the chaos, resourceful gun totin’ teen Cassie (Chloe Grace Moretz) aided by the mysterious survivalist Evan (Alex Roe) and school friend Ben (Nick Robinson) goes rogue in the forest and embarks on a quest to find her five-year-old brother Sam (Zackary Arthur) and battle the alien menace. As well as the familiar teen lit based films, readers should be sniffing similarities between this film and the likes of Tomorrow When the War Began and Red Dawn.

The 5th Wave begins impressively with convincing effects depicting the aliens’ arrival in vast imposing space ships and the disasters they trigger. The film also conveys a genuine feeling of panic as society begins to disintegrate. When it switches from sci-fi to teen military fantasy, though, the film’s credibility takes a nose dive. Somehow the aliens can traverse the galaxies, mutate viruses and summon killer tsunamis but they can’t beat a bunch of kids. The film attempts to explain this glaring inconsistency but at this stage it’s unconvincing although the promised sequels might clear up this mystery.

The film also contains a dubious morality and ambiguous political stance. It appears to critique the US military mentality and the violent world that this bequeaths to children but in its depiction of Cassie’s gun-toting antics it follows the old NRA-approved edict that the government cannot be trusted and that the most righteous and unbeatable creature on earth is an American with a gun.

Also, typical of teen-lit adaptations there’s some very cheesy romantic sequences including one hilarious scene in which teen Chloe and her noticeably older boyfriend stop for a bit of canoodling in the middle of a ferocious battle.

Most of the characters in this film are teen lit stereotypes with the feisty but sensitive heroine, the goofy teen love interest, the noticeably older love interest (making up the inevitable love triangle) and secondary characters who range from sullen teen goths to super genius nerds. Moretz is ok as the heroine but lacks the authority of a Jennifer Lawrence while Alex Roe is too ridiculously good looking to be believable as a hard man living in the woods.

Despite the clichés and unintentional comedy there’s enough well-staged action, teen heroics and romance to satisfy this film’s target demographic.

Nick’s rating: **1/2.

Genre: Young adult/ sci-fi/ action.

Classification: M.

Director(s): J Blakeson.

Release date: 14thJanuary 2016.

Running time: 112 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.


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