The bar for young adult fare isn’t exactly set high, but even so, this post-apocalyptic sci-fi survival thriller is an almost impressively awful brand of nonsense, a dispassionate and immensely sloppy YA checklist which makes even Divergent seem vaguely competent by comparison.
16-year-old Cassie Sullivan (Chloe Grace Moretz) tries to keep herself and her family alive on an Earth ravaged by an alien invasion, having inflicted four “waves” of destruction upon humanity so far (eradicating electricity, causing mass floods and so on), while it’s believed that the fifth wave will be the one that brings humanity to its end. Along with any survivors she comes across, Cassie must find a way to fight back and ensure the continuation of the human race.
Though it begins fairly promisingly for 20-or-so minutes, The Fifth Wave soon enough abandons its unexpectedly harsh tone in favour of endless genre tropes which combine to create a staid, uninspired patchwork cynically attempting to appeal to undemanding tweens rather than, well, logic. For one, the movie’s major plot twist is so outrageously obvious, director J Blakeson (The Disappearance of Alice Creed) is only a step or two away from erecting a literal neon signpost. Yes, these movies are aimed primarily at teenagers, but would it be so much work to encourage their minds rather than insult their intelligence?
This is just one problem, of which there are many; focally, the film is awash in contrivance, the pacing is atrocious, as are the dialogue and most of the performances (even fantastic up-and-comer Maika Monroe is pretty terrible here), and the painful romantic interludes are sure to earn the film plenty of derisive comparisons to the Twilight franchise.
Moretz does a decent enough job with what she has as a vulnerable-yet-not-totally-clueless protagonist, but without an exciting or entertaining script to work from, she’s left with Blakeson’s fairly flat direction, and it’s mind-boggling to think that the film’s muddy lensing and ugly digital motion was handled by the same guy who shot 127 Hours so beautifully, Enrique Chediak.
Audiences over the age of 18 will likely roll their eyes and chortle more than they have in any recent movie of the kind. The Fifth Wave certainly had the potential to subvert a lot of what makes the genre so cringe-worthy to adults, but instead opts for sheer laziness.
The Fifth Wave is in cinemas now