The 5th Wave (Movie Review)

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

PLOT: When young Cassie (Chloe Grace Moretz) is ripped apart from her family amid an alien incursion, she's tasked with trekking the Ohioan wilderness in order to retrieve her little brother Sam (Zachary Arthur) from a nearby military base.

REVIEW: As you might expect from a director who brands himself J Blakeson , or more accurate yet, from the grossly overpaid dreck-hound of a scribe himself, Akiva Goldsman – THE 5TH WAVE stands mighty tall as, only a whopping three weeks into 2016, a major contender for worst film of the year. Holy hell! I don't even know where to begin with all that's wrong and woefully inept about this movie. You've heard of an embarrassment of riches? Well this is an embarrassment of clichés, a movie riddled with so many moronic face-palming platitudes and IQ-draining story beats that even my 12 year old self would wholeheartedly reject this as nothing more than a pathetic piece of uninspired YA pabulum. Seriously, not even the magnetic allure of Chloe Grace-Moretz and a roster of capable support from Liev Schreiber, Ron Livingston, Maria Bello, Tony Revolori and Maika Monroe can rescue this odious excuse of a major motion picture. Even if you're afforded the chance to see this movie for free, don't!

So young Cassie Sullivan (Moretz) used to be a typical teenager, attending school, swilling beer at parties, ogling cute boys, etc. That is, until her little western Ohio town is suddenly descended upon by a gigantic alien spacecraft – one that looks like every other version you've ever seen – as the beginning of a full-fledged extraterrestrial invasion. Said incursion comes in stages, or waves, with one of the first creating an electromagnetic pulse that takes out all Earthly electricity, a second that spreads avian flu, and the 5th and final one marking alien assimilation among human civilians. Meaning, the aliens – unimaginatively referred to as The Others – can assume human form and blend in, undetected, with the rest of the population. As Cassie is stripped from her family, first losing her mother, then her father, her little brother Sam, like all children, is rounded up and taking to a nearby military base in order to undergo combat training. Apparently the army is intent on molding impressionable young minds in order to defend the human race. Of course, if this sounds a bit shady, it's almost certainly because of how poorly plotted and easily foretold the underlying plotline is. Indolent and way too easy to spot!

Along the way, Cassie encounters a number of equally gormless characters. One is a high school crush named Ben Parish aka Zombie (Nick Robinson) who she pines over in her journal. Ben happens to share a squad with young Sam, and it's ultimately with his help that Cassie is able to reunite with her brother. Then there's Evan Walker, a hunky farm-boy that Cassie is rescued by after one obviously bitten Walking Dead sequence – too shot in Atlanta – leaves her wounded and unconscious. The stupefying romance between the two – punctuated by a ridiculous, crowd-howling shot of Evan bathing his rippling muscles in a lake as Cassie drools – is downright irksome. Especially when Evan's true identity is revealed, and most certainly when, in the end, an awkward exchange between Cassie, Evan and previous crush Ben induces a smattering of derisive guffaws from the audience. It's that bad! Liev Schreiber can't hide what terrible lines he's given as army commander Vosch, so too is Maria Bello similarly challenged as the cruel and abusive Sergeant Reznik. Only Tony Revolori (GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL, DOPE) gets audience approval when, an embarrassing sing-along moment between Sam and another boy, he exhorts…will you please, shut up! This line, rightly so, drew the biggest applause from the crowd!

The castigation could continue with example after example, but perhaps the most glaring detractor of THE 5TH WAVE is, for an alien invasion film, the absolute dearth of actual aliens. All we get are X-ray readouts of parasitic face-huggers, which, trust us, sounds far cooler than it really is…and in the end, is neither real, nor original. On the whole it seems, and maybe this stems from adapting a novel written by a onetime IRS agent in Rick Yancy, the film borrows, lifts and taxes from portions of other equally banal big-budget misfires. The result feels like one big, dumb, cut-and-paste pastiche of any number of insipidly told YA suck-fests. And none of it works. Never mind adults, this isn't even a remotely good movie for kids. Coming to mind is a line from the film that distills the criticism down to a single sentence. Late in the film, when one of managerial Others is confronted as to why even invade Earth, to paraphrase, the leader is asked "why do it, what's the point?" The response given is, "there is no point. We basically do it to occupy space." I can almost imagine a cynical Columbia exec say the exact same thing about the entire existence of this movie.

So yeah, if you thought THE 4TH KIND was asinine, here comes THE 5TH WAVE to up the stupidity quotient by a factor of one. Avoid it at all prices. It's insultingly uninspired, overly platitudinous to the point of parody, and with its tilted dialogue, cribs from a dozen better movies. Not even the radiant Chloe Grace Moretz can disguise what utter dross this is, nor can Liev Schreiber, Ron Livingston, Maria Bello and Maika Monroe for that matter. The action is scant, the aliens nonthreatening, and the awkwardly mishandled romance feels like a lazily considered afterthought. Look, I know that hundreds of people surely worked hard on this product, and for the below the line talent…all of you, you're acquitted. But whoever green lit this movie, whoever chose to option the rights to this lame YA novel in the first place, whoever entrusted the hacky and hokey Akiva Goldsman to pen the script and J Blakeson to direct…y'all should be on high alert. There's no reason a major motion picture should have so little to offer!

The 5th Wave



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Jake Dee is one of JoBlo’s most valued script writers, having written extensive, deep dives as a writer on WTF Happened to this Movie and it’s spin-off, WTF Really Happened to This Movie. In addition to video scripts, Jake has written news articles, movie reviews, book reviews, script reviews, set visits, Top 10 Lists (The Horror Ten Spot), Feature Articles The Test of Time and The Black Sheep, and more.