Movie Review: THE 5TH WAVE (2016)

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the_5th_wave.jpgTHE 5TH WAVE (USA 2016) **
Directed by J. Blakeson

Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, Matthew Zuk, Gabriela Lopez

Review by Gilbert Seah

THE 5TH WAVE is based on the young adult novel of the same name by Rick Yancey, the first of a trilogy published in 2013. The book has been favourably compared to THE HUNGER GAMES and critics have hoped that the book and film should do for aliens what TWILIGHT did for vampires. Sony Pictures has picked up the film rights – surprising that Lionsgate missed the boat.

The waves refer to the increasingly deadly alien attacks that have left most of Earth devastated. The aliens are called ‘the others’. The 1st wave is the electromagnetic wave that destroys all of earth’s power, The second is quakes and the third is a virus carried by birds that have wiped out most of humanity. The 4th involve aliens inhabiting humans and the 5th of the film title refer to the others’ final attack on humanity. All these sound quite interesting and so is the film until about a third through the film.

As the film begins, director Blakeson’s images and attention to details captivate. Detailed images of for example of litter on the ground, a cat, a family glaring up at the sky all raise expectations of a good solid sci-fi thriller. The special effects (though CGI generated) of tsunamis and the destruction of major cities like London are all impressive.

But when the 3rd wave arrives – the virus that destroys most of the earth’s population, the film begins to fall to bits, as if affected by the same virus. The film gets progressively sillier with twists that do not make sense at all. There are two main twists, that will not be revealed in the review, safe to say they should make solid logical sense. They do not!

The protagonist of the story is a heroine (like in TWILIGHT and THE HUNGER GAMES), a young Cassie Sullivan (Chloe Grace Moretz from KICK-ASS) who first loses her mother (Maggie Siff), followed by her dad (Ron Livingston). Her first priority in the story is thus to look after her younger brother, Sammy (Zachary Arthur) who turns out to be extremely spoilt and annoying. Sammy must keep his ugly teddy bear and has no sense to tell the bus driver to stop when his sister is chasing after the bus. (Or maybe it is the scriptwriter who has no sense.) The search leads her to meet the best looking hunk seen in a young adult film this year. Evan Walker (Alan Roe) aids her in searching for Sammy. This takes them to the facility led by Colonel Vosch (Liev Schreiber). The film’s most outrageous scene has Cassie catching the hunk swimming naked in the stream. Obviously, she falls for him. She distrusts him at first but then who can resist those dreamboat eyes?

But the film gets sillier and sillier. One scene has Evan suddenly appearing in the alien facility. “I have planted bombs!” he tells Cassie. Another has Cassie looking at the sky in broad daylight seeing stars. Yet amidst all the mayhem, Cassie manages to write her diary, which Evan reads. Fortunately there is no scene in the film showing Cassie writing a journal entry, and that would be even more laughable.

The 5TH WAVE works well at the start, gets terribly boring and then unintentionally hilarious. To that effect the film is not without its entertainment value.

To the filmmakers’ credit the production costs came below $40 million, which is a bargain for a sci-fi special effects film. The fact that unknown actors (except for Moretz) were hired helps. It would be interesting to see if Sony Pictures continues with the film adaptation of the other two novels.


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