Saturday, February 27, 2016

The 5th Wave fails to make waves

movie review

The 5th Wave

Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, Nick Robinson, Ron Livingston, Maggie Siff, Alex Roe, Maria Bello, Maika Monroe, and Liev Schreiber
Directed by: J Blakeson
Tagline: Wave 1: Darkness. Wave 2: Destruction. Wave 3: Infection. Wave 4: Invasion.

The massive popularity of young adult franchises like Twilight and The Hunger Games has inspired Hollywood to transform other YA sagas into film series. Few of them, however, have gained significant traction with audiences while most failed to even make it beyond the first instalment.

The latest such attempt comes in the form of the teen thriller The 5th Wave, a middling effort to generate a franchise out of a Rick Yancey alien invasion trilogy.

The story revolves around teenager Cassie (Chloë Grace Moretz), a normal high school girl living with her family – father Oliver (Ron Livingston), mother Lisa (Maggie Siff) and younger brother Sammy (Zackary Arthur) – and harbouring a crush on football player Ben (Nick Robinson). But her life takes a drastic turn after an alien spaceship starts hovering in the sky over Earth. The vessel belongs to an extraterrestrial species, referred to as The Others, who want to destroy the human race. Their invasion efforts are unleashed in waves which include successively dismantling the world’s power, causing earthquakes and tsunamis, decimating the global population with a strain of the avian flu and finally inhabiting human hosts and controlling their actions with the ultimate goal of taking over the planet. Amidst the mayhem that ensues, Cassie ends up on the run, unsure who to trust, while trying to find and save her brother.

The film is well cast and the actors deliver serviceable performances, but sadly they don’t have much to work with, as the story forces the stereotypical characters to stumble from one cliché to the next. In typical YA tradition, the protagonist has been given two love interests, neither of whom are very interesting.

Most of the characters don’t have enough backstory, nor are they developed beyond one-dimensional cardboard cut-outs, giving us no reason to be invested in their missions or care about their fate. The adult cast in particular – especially Liev Schreiber and Maria Bello as the army personnel training young recruits to fight off the invasion – is completely squandered in the film.

The premise promises an exciting sci-fi thriller, but then decides to turn into a tedious teen drama instead. Half way through, The 5th Wave starts to drag, and then completely loses its footing, taking a nonsensical turn with the fourth and (ambiguous) fifth waves, when the aliens decide to follow up strategically shrewd attacks with a final strategy that is too moronic to have been developed by advanced, intelligent beings. Like its characters, the film starts to wander around aimlessly, trying (and failing) to find a compelling direction to go in, ultimately ending up in overly familiar territory.

You are never in any doubt about how things will pan out for the protagonist and none of the developments come as a surprise. The ending too is unsatisfying as what it really leaves you with is the premonition that there might be a sequel. The movie doesn’t offer anything impressive visually either. With a relatively low budget, the film doesn’t have a chance to dazzle us with particularly spectacular special effects or striking, memorable visuals.

Despite a promising start, The 5th Wave fails to develop its potentially interesting setting into something unique and instead treads the same path that has been travelled by many post-apocalyptic adventures before. It’s hard to tell what director J Blakeson’s influence has been on the project, since there is nothing that sets this by-the-numbers teen dystopian drama apart from the many similar movies that we have already been subjected to. And while it may not be as embarrassingly bad as some of the worst offenders in the YA category, it still proves that both writers and film-makers need to inject some originality in this oversaturated genre if they want to keep the audience interested.

Rating: 2 out of 5

- By Sameen Amer

The Express Tribune website - 27th February, 2016 *

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