Right from the get-go, The 5th Wave gives you an instant feeling of déjà-vu. Yes, you’ve seen this movie trope SO many times before in The Host, Divergent, The Hunger Games, The Puppet Masters, Independence Day, War of the Worlds, Battle: Los Angeles, Ender’s Game, and countless others based on YA novels. Ya think someone could write something new and fresh, but nooooooooooo!
This time around, the damsel-in-distress is Kick-Ass‘ own Chloë Grace Moretz, who plays Cassie Sullivan, a 16-year-old who gets swept up in yet another alien invasion and has to rescue her younger brother, Sammy (Zackary Arthur) from the dumbest aliens in the galaxy after their parents are killed. Y’see, these “Others” as they’re called, arrive in massive ships (looking suspiciously like the Battle: Los Angeles crafts) and bombard our planet with waves: earthquakes, planetary EM pulses wiping out all electricity, and escalating bird flu. This takes out most of humanity, but for the rest who manage to survive, there’s a surprise.
The Others decide to mentally inhabit (like in The Host) just the adults in order to kill off the remaining few! Why just the adults? Beats me! How do they even do this? I haven’t a clue! Anyway, somehow local Wright-Patterson Army base was exempt from the EM pulse and starts combat training JUST kids and teens (like in Ender’s Game or Divergent) to kill the aliens that have invaded the human world. You may start unintentional laughing when you see an 8-year-old girl in full combat gear carrying an M4 rifle that’s bigger than she is.
Meanwhile, as Cassie is on her way to Wright-Patterson to meet her brother there (they got separated), she is nearly killed by an alien sniper. Thankfully, she’s rescued and nursed by a local farmer and, I’m guessing, male model Evan Walker (Alex Roe). Naturally she falls for this beyond handsome guy and together they head for the Army base, but (spoiler alert!!) it turns out that yummy Evan is, in fact, part alien! But, wouldn’t cha know it? He’s in love with Cassie and decides to switch sides, helping her destroy the evil Army base and rescue her little brother.
Then there’s a secondary story running in the background of Cassie’s schoolmate and heart-throb, Ben Parish (Nick Robinson), called ‘Zombie’, because he survived the bird flu. He becomes his Army squad leader under base commander, Colonel Vosch (Liev Schreiber). He has the hots for rebel bad girl, Ringer (Maika Monroe), but she just wants to fight. Their group is sent out to kill aliens, but while in battle they find to their horror, that the REAL aliens are their own Army leaders back home!
With a completely ridiculous and implausible ending, the movie leaves it open for a sequel (PLEASE! NO!). I was routing for the aliens to win and they were doing everything wrong! What kind of advanced alien tech dishes out earthquakes, global EM pulses, human mind control, but has no weaponry?? What, you guys don’t carry laser guns or bombs or anything?!
This whole movie wreaks of dumbness. Seriously, did a 14-year-old write this? Screenwriters Susannah Grant, Akiva Goldsman, and Jeff Pinkner took Rick Yancey’s popular YA novel and dissolved it into a mindless cartoon with utterly laughable dialoge and nonsensical scenes. I almost walked out on this, which I rarely do, that’s how bad it was. Starship-sized plot holes, unemotional development, terrible ensemble acting, just plain boring “seen that before” plot and characters, and a waste of Schrieber and Moretz’s talent.
J. Blakeson, to his credit, directed this mess with an even hand and did his best. The opening does boast some decent SPFX of destruction (like you’ve seen in 2012 and Deep Impact), and Moretz, who is so very good in any movie she’s in, handled her Cassie well at the beginning, but as the film wore on, she needed to toughen-up and stop being such a wimp. Her damsel-in-distress routine got to be annoying after a while. And getting Roe as a stunning Mr. Six-packed Ab GQ smokin’ hot alien? This guy was actually TOO good-lookin’! Robinson lacked any personality and Monroe was a carbon-copy of Natalie Dormer’s Cressida from Hunger Games. Yeah, the aliens should have won.
All the “aliens attacking and then taking over our bodies” scenarios stem from this classic sci-fi ditty that scared me as a kid when I first saw it. Yeah, I’m that old, shut up. Sure, it’s cheesy and silly today, but back in the 50’s it packed a wallop to the movie-going crowd.
The set-up is one that any kid my age, back then, could easily relate to: Late one night, young David MacLean (Jimmy Hunt) is awakened by a loud thunderstorm and sees from his bedroom window, a large flying saucer descend and disappear into the nearby sand dunes! After rushing to tell his parents, his scientist father George (Leif Erickson) goes to investigate David’s claim, but when his dad returns later that morning, David notices an unusual red puncture on his neck. Odd. George starts to behave in a cold and hostile manner and David begins to realize something is very wrong with Pops; he soon notices certain townsfolk are acting in exactly the same way.
Worse yet, through his telescope, David sees his playmate neighbor, Kathy Wilson (Janine Perreau), suddenly disappear while walking in the sand dunes. David flees to the police station for help, but only Dr. Pat Blake (Helena Carter) believes his crazy story. With the help of local astronomer Dr. Stuart Kelston (Arthur Franz) and Dr. Blake, David soon realizes the flying saucer is likely the vanguard of an invasion from the planet Mars! Uh-oh! But just as the Army is called in to surround the saucer landing site, Dr. Blake and David are suddenly sucked underground and captured by two tall, slit-eyed green aliens.
They are taken to their Martian leader, a giant head with green tentacles in a transparent sphere, who orders Dr. Blake to be implanted with a mind-control device like everyone else. The Army breaks in with guns a’blazing, and grabs Dr. Blake just before she gets implanted. As the Army blows everything up, David wakes up. Whew, it was all a dream! BUT! He looks out the window and sees the whole thing happening again, but with a different ending
Written by John Tucker Battle and Richard Blake, this impressive looking film (a vivid SuperColor Eastman Negative was used) was directed by William Cameron Menzies, best known for his art direction on such films like Gone With The Wind and Around the World in 80 Days, so it LOOKS really spectacular. Let’s face it, this cheesy film makes you giggle at times, especially the bad alien costuming (you can see their zipper lines!), but the acting is on-point and they really sell the premise.
Funny enough, the British didn’t like our “dream” ending and re-edited it for their market, having the Army kill off all the aliens and David waking up to a peaceful morning. They even re-shot some scenes to show more saucer destruction as the aliens were fleeing for their lives. In 1986, a remake was made with Hunter Carson as David.
Two words: It sucked.