The 5th Wave (2016)


“I didn’t know it then, but that was the last normal day of my life.”

After taking some time to thoroughly digest The 5th Wavesearching for a shred of nutritional value or moral fiber, I felt intellectually emaciated. Like my brainwaves were at a constipated crossroads. Honestly, I still don’t know if this movie was trying to be serious or not. And I pray to any and every god above that it wasn’t. That it was aiming to be an exploitation feature. There’s little chance that’s actually the case though, and as such, I have no regret in saying that this is one of the worst forays into the young adult genre I’ve seen to date. It’s almost remarkable how The 5th Wave hits every false note with such klutzy precision.


Cassie Sullivan (Chloe Grace Moretz), in her own words, used to be your typical high school girl. Blonde, bright-eyed, drinking from Solo cups at the kinds of parties that only happen in the movies. Her Clueless world is flipped on its head with the arrival of a destructive alien race. They’re simply known as “The Others” because apparently the people in this world are as lazy and conventional as the writers of the script. So, there goes her perfect teenage life in Ohio. Cassie narrates from the beginning, retelling short moments of each “wave” the aliens bring to eradicate civilization. The first knocked out all electricity and technology. Second came tsunamis. Third was an advanced Avian flu. And fourth finds The Others on Earth, inhabiting humans through a parasitic form. But don’t forget the obligatory love triangle!


The 5th Wave borrows the narrative breakdown and romance of The Hunger Games, attempts the mystery of The Maze Runner, and has an alien race from The Thing shuttling around in ships from Independence Day. Nothing about this movie feels fresh or original, instead playing out like a stale pile of puke from that day’s mystery meat school lunch. Cassie’s profligate journey, after losing both parents, is obsessed with the male gender. She must save her little brother. Submits to the affection of a turncoat Other. Even stumbles upon a quick previous flirt in a student who she thought to be dead, and with whom she once told “nice phone case!” Maybe director J Blakeson’s view is correct in its dumbed down interactions of our lead character, having no personality once her precious gadgets and white picket lifestyle are gone. But that doesn’t mean it’s any fun to watch either.

L-r, Nick Robinson, Zackary Arthur and Chloë Grace Moretz star in Columbia Pictures' "The 5th Wave."

The last act places its focus on tyrannical and misleading government figures utilizing the brainwashed minds of child soldiers for their own benefit. That’s pretty heady and disturbing stuff. Yet since it is so difficult to trust the intentions of The 5th Wave, the drama crumbles from a brick and mortar premise to sunken slop. Blakeson’s movie actually feels pro gun and violence because the repercussions are as trivial to us as a 20 minute timeout is to a toddler. They know, as do we, that it’ll all be over soon. Cassie expounds that killing off a species can be easy, but that there are always cockroaches who slip through the cracks and survive. What an accurate summary of this movie. The 5th Wave is actually its own 6th Wave endtime. YA adaptations don’t get much worse.

“Could you guys please, shut up.”

Rating: 0.5 out of 5

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