The 5th Wave: Contrived Even by Teen Fiction Standards [Review]

by | Jan 24, 2016

This week I reviewed The 5th Wave because that seemed like the best choice.  After all, I like sci-fi and aliens and movies based on teen fiction often appeals to me because in some ways I am a 14 year old girl at heart.  But I was definitely too old for this film. This was not a sci-fi movie, not really even an alien movie; it was an apocalypse film and not a particularly well told one at that.  Fair warning, this review will not avoid spoilers.  If you want to see this film unsullied by spoilers (and you really shouldn’t bother) then just don’t click on the link below.

5WV_1SHT_TSR_05.inddFour waves of increasingly deadly alien attacks have left most of Earth decimated. Cassie is on the run, desperately trying to save her younger brother.


Seriously, fuck January.  I haven’t seen a single good film come out since last year, all this drek has been unbelievably bad.   My reviews lately have felt like autopsies, trying to find what a film died from instead of what made it great.  I’m tempted to hunker down and review old movies until something decent comes out, like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which thankfully is next week.  (Don’t let me down, Burr Steers)

The 5th Wave was 112 minutes long (a perfectly reasonable length) but it felt WAY longer.  When that happens, it’s because of pacing.  This movie stumbles and meanders through the wreckage of its plot like its characters stumble through the wreckage of their world – shocked and sad, with no idea what to do next.  Of course it DOES know where it’s ultimately going – based on a teen fiction book (planned to be a series), The 5th Wave DEFINITELY plans to be a series and tries to pace itself accordingly.  But it seems like they had no idea what to do in the short term.  There were at least 2 separate montages, for example.

The Alien Invasion made no sense.  Not from a filmmaking standpoint (if you’re going to make a movie with aliens, then show some goddam aliens) but also not from a logistical/believability standpoint.  Let’s assume that aliens with sufficient technology to reach earth, need it to live on (or whatever) and let’s also assume that they need to exterminate humanity to do it.  Fine.  How would they do it?  EMP bursts are well and good, but what about other radiation that works better on humans?  That technology exists
now.   And what about genetic engineering that allowed the aliens to make plagues – the aliens do it once and then apparently can’t repeat the procedure for those who would have been resistant to the first plague.  If they have the technology for a spaceship (which looks remarkably like the from District 9) would they then come down in mech suits a la War of the Worlds?  Nope – maybe they’re worried about the common cold.  I could go on, but the point is that all the events of the film are torturously contrived to bring an army of well armed teenages against an oppressive army of all powerful (yet strangely incompetent) grown-ups.   Well, I’ll give them this – The 5th Wave knows its audience.

I’m not sure if it was intentional or not, but The 5th Wave did have a kind of religious overtone to it.  I mean apocalypse is kindof a religious thing.  There was a meaningful scene involving a cross (though not what you’d think) More tellingly, the villains of the movie were amoral and without love.  They didn’t understand hope or compassion even though they were technologically superior, like invading atheists.  At one point, the feeling of love literally turns an alien hybrid human.  I might have missed all this were it not for the advertisers picking up on some dog-whistle or other.  There were two overtly religious trailers before this film, so I was primed to think along these lines.

So was this worth watching?  Nope.  Don’t even rent it – I saw this so you don’t have to.  I mean yes the acting wasn’t bad – Chloe Grace Mortez carried a large part of the film.   And Mercy me is Alex Roe ever handsome.  But don’t bother with it, maybe just read the book or better yet avoid altogether.