Feel the terror, the destruction...of the Mexican Wave! Oh, you mean The 5th Wave? Okay, well that's pretty cool too.
Young adult book adaptations are a dime a dozen nowadays, so The 5th Wave (based on a YA novel of the same name from a couple years back) arrives in cinemas amongst a myriad of competition and comparisons. From your Hunger Games to your Maze Runners and Mortal Instruments, the genre is more than a little varied in terms of quality at times.
Unfortunately, this is one adaptation that rates on the lower end of the spectrum. But before we get into why, let's take a look at what threat the attractive cast of young adults face this time around.
The 5th Wave is set after the arrival of a mysterious alien race (dubbed 'The Others') that signals a series of cataclysmic attacks on humankind. Electromagnetic pulses, shifts in tectonic activity, deadly viruses; these numerous 'waves' have set mankind back thousands of years and sees them faced with extinction. The Others are now planning a final wave - the fifth, if you hadn't already guessed - in order to destroy humanity once and for all.
Our protagonist, 16-year-old Cassie (Chloe Grace Moretz), is on the run from the Others and determined to rescue her younger brother Sammy (Zackary Arthur) from their villainous clutches. On her travels she meets a young man named Evan (Alex Roe) who may just hold the key to humanity's long-lasting survival against their intergalactic enemy.
The premise in itself is fairly solid and draws from a lot of classic science-fiction tropes; the Others are purposely vague and mysterious, their true intentions and form hidden from the characters and the audience. The film plays with themes like unsettling paranoia as well as post-apocalyptic imagery such as abandoned cars and ruined skylines. It's like a mixture of The Walking Dead, The Road and Battlestar Galactica.
That being said, it ultimately fails at recapturing the brilliance of any of the aforementioned properties. Cheap VFX and heavy exposition mean the first act is primarily concerned with hurried world building whilst the second act loses its way through the bane of all YA movies; romance.
Once Cassie and Evan meet we're faced with poorly written dialogue, tiresome doe eyes and long-winded scenes that establish their uninteresting romantic coupling. Meanwhile, on the other side, the remaining army Corps are prepping another group of characters - including Ben (Nick Robinson) and Ringer (Maika Monroe) - for battle against the Others in a dull training montage that recalls the first Divergent movie. Once all this is finished we're hurriedly ushered into an anticlimactic final act that is disappointingly small for a film that works on such a global scale. Before you know it, our heroes have all grown considerably, learned a lot and are eagerly anticipating the announcement of their eventual sequel.
It's far from great, but The 5th Wave has enough working under the bonnet to warrant a viewing - if this is your kind of thing. It won't convert people who aren't fans of the genre, but The 5th Wave does see Moretz deliver a good enough lead performance and the Invasion of the Body Snatchers-esque core construct holds potential that will hopefully carry across into future, better, instalments.
The Verdict: 6/10
The 5th Wave scrapes a passing grade purely because I really like the concept at its core - the problem is, this film feels like the opening act of a much more interesting movie and the snoozy middle third doesn't disguise this disappointingly protracted plot. Moretz is an assured lead whilst Monroe provides some sulky comic relief.
The 5th Wave is in cinemas across Australia now.