********* 5 out of 10 *********
Director: J. Blakeson
Actors: Chloë Grace Moretz, Nick Robinson, Liev Schreiber
Movies showcasing a dystopian future where youngsters (or “Young Adults” / YA) are playing pivotal roles, haven’t we had too many of them already? The biggest one of the lot – The Hunger Games – came to a conclusion last year while two more – The Divergent Series and The Maze Runner – are still on-going. There have been a few more such movies attempted in recent years which never managed to move onto the sequel. While the literary world is churning out one after another successful book series in the YA genre, Hollywood studios are hastily trying to catch up, very rarely achieving the desired results. The 5th Wave is the latest example of this mayhem that Hollywood is creating for itself. The movie rights for a possible trilogy by author Rick Yancey had been acquired by Columbia Pictures in 2012, even before the first book hit the shelf which was in 2013. The book was a great success, and in hindsight, it might have looked like a good deal by the studio, if only they could have made a movie worthy of the source material.
The 5th Wave looks repetitive from the word go. Hollywood has entertained us, amused us, baffled us, and annoyed us with its plethora of alien stories and dystopian futures, and now it’s a challenge for any filmmaker to come up with something fresh. Director J. Blakeson doesn’t seem to have been interested in accepting this challenge. Streets devoid of life, roads with abandoned cars, retail stores with leftover supplies, that’s a cliched setup with which The 5th Wave begins. The precursor to this future is shown through the eyes of a teenager, Cassey, who explains how the aliens hit the Earth with the first four waves in an attempt to end human life. During these events, she gets separated from her kid brother who has been taken to a military base, and so now she has to track him down while ensuring her survival on the way.
The screenplay credited to Susannah Grant, Akiva Goldsman and Jeff Pinkner is pedestrian, to say the least. The writers and the director have missed one of the core fundamentals of a YA movie – bring to the audience a courageous young protagonist who is way out of his or her depths in this dystopian world but still perseveres, and get the audience to love and root for him/her. On paper, The 5th Wave has that protagonist in Cassey, but the screenplay lacks the emotional depth to make us really feel for her. The switching between Cassey’s quest to reach the military base and the actions on the military base itself further make it difficult to connect to any of the lead actors, despite the best efforts of Chloë Grace Moretz and Nick Robinson. Further what J. Blakeson’s movie lacks is the ability to keep Cassey ‘young’, a point which Rick Yancey had managed in his books. She is a teenager after all, she needs to think and act like one, make mistakes like one, fall in love like one. But the movie focuses most of its attention on the human versus alien conflict which at times gives it the look of a third-person shooter video game.
Good actors will always find it difficult to make a mark in average movies. The cast of The 5th Wave are given limited chances to display their acting prowess. Having said that, Chloë Grace Moretz is once again a joy to watch on screen. Only 18 years of age, she has already amassed such a good body of work (Kick-Ass, Hugo) that I hope her career as an adult is more worthy of her talents than stuff like The 5th Wave. She still delivers a solid performance, providing a range of emotions that Cassey goes through in a difficult world, giving us at least someone to root for. Nick Robinson as Ben Parish displays the outer mould of a good actor with an attractive charm, and hopefully there would be better movies for him to showcase his acting ability. Alex Roe as Evan Walker who helps Cassey in her journey to reach her brother is a bit stiff in his performance, and Maika Monroe does not come across as the bad-ass Ringer the way I suppose the character was meant to be. Liev Schreiber and Maria Bello are the more well-known names in the movie, playing characters in the Army, and give good mature performances, as much as is asked of them. Young Zackary Arthur as Sam, Cassey’s kid brother, is adorable, and should have been used more to build a stronger emotional angle in the film.
The 5th Wave has a few surprises up its sleeves that give the movie interesting twists in the second half, though the lack of emotional connect by then dulls their impact. Whether the movie gets a sequel or not would be decided by the box-office performance (the second book The Infinite Sea was published in September 2014). If the studio does go ahead with the sequel, it definitely needs to be much better than this.