Unimaginative beyond its initial premise and promising opening, The 5th Wave devolves quickly into a frustrating teen thriller that focuses more on the soap opera romance than the interesting alien invasion. With a mixed reception to the book, it was always going to be difficult to try and translate that into a decent film considering the way the story turns into a generic teen romance and unfortunately Sony can’t save this.
The story itself is intriguing enough and surprisingly original. An alien invasion decimates the human race with four methodical waves of indirect attacks resulting in pockets of survivors hanging to a shred of hope. Each wave cruelly destroys more humans until only pockets of survivors remain in the world. Within this new world of distrust, fear and survival is Cassie (Chloë Grace Moretz) who’s on the run and trying to save her younger brother who’s been separated from her. As she begins to prepare for the 5th and final wave of attack from the aliens that threaten to wipe out all of humanity, she runs into fellow survivor Evan Walker (Alex Roe). As the two grow closer, the film slows in pace and becomes more of a romantic drama as it focuses on Cassie’s inner turmoil and whether to trust him or not. Had the film decided to focus more on the invasion itself and less on the romance, it could have been a promising action series. As it stands though, The 5th Wave is a disappointing adaptation of the book and does nothing to improve the issues it has.
Aside from doe eyed Cassie who’s almost a perfection depiction of the character from the book, the rest of the cast are lacklustre and largely forgettable. The problems with this film are further accentuated by how similar it is to other teen films set in a post apocalyptic world. The Maze Runner, Hunger Games, Divergent and more all dominate this genre and do it with enough originality and flair to distinguish themselves from the pack. Unfortunately for The 5th Wave it doesn’t do this and as one archetypal trope after another stumble into the film it ends up appealing to no one.
To be honest, The 5th Wave is more frustrating than disappointing. There’s potential here for a good action film with each wave shot well during a tense opening that holds promise for the rest of the film. It soon disappears though as the film devolves into a generic teen thriller. Perhaps this could have been forgiven, given the film’s originality in depicting an alien invasion in a different way but its ending heaps more frustration by ending on a cliffhanger, ready for another film that will probably never come based on this effort.