Full Disclosure, I was not aware this flick was based on another set of pre-teen novels before I went to see it, I don’t know that having that foreknowledge would have changed my enjoyment of the film but it certainly would have prepared me for some things…more on that later. Cassie Sullivan (Chloe Grace-Moretz) is a normal high school kid, parties, crushes, best friends, all that. She would’ve gotten away with it too, had it not been for those meddlesome aliens! Well, they call them ‘The Others’, not aliens (because that would be the height of our creative naming). The others show up on a day like any other, one day the sky is blue and the sun is shining, the next it’s filled with the ominous, gigantic silver discs hovering over major cities ala Independence Day. What follows is, as the title implies, five waves of extermination. They start with an EMP that wipes power out across the planet, followed by inciting natural disasters, then disease, then one on one assassination then full scale invasion. In the fourth wave the others take on human hosts, a kind of pod people type situation, which they use to patrol and eliminate humans as they are found. Meanwhile the army is assembling a child army to take on the alien threat, the reasoning for the child army is never quite clear but it’s inferred that it’s easier to detect the aliens in children. When Cassie is separated from her brother Sam she sets off on a quest to survive the 80 mile journey to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, aided in the journey by a mysterious good Samaritan Evan Walker.
Such promise, that’s pretty much my review. The first 45 minutes of this movie are excellent, watching Cassie and her family as they deal with the initial invasion, the devastating loss and the threat of what’s to come was a heart wrenching experience. The visuals were excellent, stakes were high, and the whole thing felt like a big budget movie. That all changed once the army came into the picture. The whole thing was very odd, it was like watching three different movies in one. The point at which everything changes is so obvious it’s almost painful. After fleeing their home Cassie and her family end up at a refugee camp, the army shows up with transports to take the children to safety and that is where we say goodbye to the promise that this movie held. Up to that point it didn’t feel like a Twilight style pre-teen book adaptation at all, as I mentioned before I didn’t know that going in and had the tone stayed where it was I never would have guessed, but the tone did change, and I did guess. We go from a fairly standard but enjoyable alien invasion flick to a horribly written, non-sensical, and completely out there and entirely laughable child army vs the alien’s situation. It’s not that the army is made of children that bothered me, it’s the way it was handled. These kids show up at the base and within a week they are walking around like seasoned soldiers, overusing soldier catchphrases like “That guys section 8” …and I’m not just talking about teenagers here, Cassie’s brother Sam is all of 6 years old and he’s strapped up with a gun and a tiny little tactical suit. It’s all just so lazy that it becomes painful. There was not a single thing about this part of the story that I dug, with one exception, they use these special optics to identify which humans are infected with the alien parasite which does end up looking pretty cool. Everything else? Abysmal. Julie Benz plays a completely over acted soldier who has no real clear job except to be the most over the top hard ass drill sergeant type…it’s painful to watch. Liev Schrieber plays Col. Vosch, he’s actually effective in the role as he is in pretty much everything he does, but it’s so hard to take his character seriously as he’s delivering the most jingoistic and unoriginal Patton style speeches I’ve ever heard.
Now to the third side of our three story sandwich. Cassie’s journey. This part was actually about 80% ok and featured some of the better scenes in the movie, with one glaring issue bringing the whole thing down. On her trip Cassie is attacked and shot in the leg, when she wakes up she is in the home of Evan Walker, a guy a little older than her who saved her life and nursed her back to health. The two eventually set off together to find Cassie’s brother. I’m treading lightly as I don’t want to give too much away but the fight scenes featuring Evan are excellent and really, though short, are some of the best moments in the movie. All of that is for naught however thanks to the just tremendously juvenile writing…I mean it’s SO bad. The two inevitably fall for each other which leads to the most cheese-tastic writing I’ve heard in I don’t know how long. Seriously it sounds like a love struck 11 year old wrote it. Things like “I realized I have a choice, and I choose you” which, as I write it doesn’t seem so bad, but the other half is the horrible delivery by Alex Roe who plays Evan, we’re in soap opera territory here. The audience I watched it with literally couldn’t stop laughing throughout an entire 5 minute scene that was supposed to come across as romantic.
Needless to say I can’t recommend The 5th Wave and it almost pains me to say it. That first 45 minutes, oh those sweet, sweet minutes, I was halfway through a positive review in my head until we took that left turn to cheesetown, population: this movie. I suppose if you’re the kind of person that watched Twilight and thought “Wow, I love this movie but I really wish it was at least three times more juvenile” then this flick is for you. Everyone else? Take a pass.
1 out of 5 Guttenbergs