Hollywood keeps trying to find a young-adult-sci-fi franchise successor to The Hunger Games, with mixed results. For every Divergent or Maze Runner that hits financially, we get misses like Mortal Instruments or The Host. The latest attempt, The 5th Wave, was only a modest box office success, yet stands out somewhat from its brethren by virtue of its lead actress and an intriguing premise.
Based on the first in a trilogy of novels by Rick Yancey, it follows a teen girl (Chloë Moretz) as she tries to keep her little brother safe during an alien invasion of Earth. It concurrently follows a fellow teen (Nick Robinson) as he and other teens are trained by the military to help stop the invaders.
The title refers to how the invaders proceed to take over Earth – in waves, using the planet’s resources against us. They create colossal tidal waves, amplify diseases, etc. It’s a different methodology than in other alien-invasion flicks, though initially I was scratching my head at its logic: why don’t the invaders, with their ginormous ships and obviously advanced technology, just wipe out all of humanity at once? (In that respect it reminded me of the series Falling Skies.) But this is only the first in a trilogy of stories, so there’s a bigger picture we’re simply not able to see yet. As it is, the nature of the fifth – and final – wave remains a mystery until near the end, and is worth waiting for.
There’s also the presentation of teenagers being trained to be soldiers, the moral implications of which almost always prove interesting, be it here or in films like Red Dawn. What must one be like in order to kill? Such food for thought helps ground the film somewhat, as does the fact that we never really see what these particular E.T.’s look like.
The casting works pretty well, too. Moretz proves very capable at action (her role in the Kick-Ass flicks surely helped in that regard) – indeed, she’s the most convincing gun-handling teenager since Saoirse Ronan in Hannah – and Robinson (Jurassic World) gives his moody teen-soldier leader some decent substance. The veterans more than match them, though, including Ron Livingston as Moretz’s father, and Liev Schreiber as a Colonel. He’s so good as a military man, I’d keep on casting him as one. – [DVD] [Blu-Ray]
DVD Release Date: 5/3/16