|'When Blakeson is borrowing from the borrowers, is it any wonder that The 5th Wave ends up feeling almost entirely derivative?'|
The overwhelming sensation that you've seen this all before permeates The 5th Wave, the latest attempt to begin a Young Adult dystopian fiction big screen franchise. It's a feeling which ultimately prevents the film from ever achieving anything more than occasional success, as not only have you seen this all before, but you've also seen it done much better.
The opening half an hour or so proves to be the film's most effective section, as the first four "waves" of an alien attack on earth are chronicled. Director J Blakeson has fun with several disaster movie style scenarios involving worldwide flooding and loss of power, although some alarmingly ropey visual effects undercut the ideas presented. It's when matters begin leading up to titular wave number five that Blakeson's film takes a considerable downturn in both entertainment and quality. Everything on offer feels lifted in one way or another from recent film or TV. The world at the end of the fourth wave may as well be a carbon copy of that seen in The Walking Dead, only with the zombies replaced by the far less interesting and thinly drawn "Others" (thanks, Lost) - aliens who have taken control of human beings to hunt down the last survivors.
Cassie Sullivan (Chloë Grace Moretz) all too quickly becomes an inferior Katniss Everdeen, a problem increasingly recurrent in YA adaptations. Her relationship with Evan (Alex Roe) never really satisfies and is left unresolved thanks to a conclusion clearly looking towards a sequel rather than resolving any of the threads begun here. The militarisation of children to fight the Others is strongly reminiscent of Ender's Game, a film which itself purloined too many of the ideas it offered. When Blakeson is borrowing from the borrowers, is it any wonder that The 5th Wave ends up feeling almost entirely derivative?
Blakeson's young cast helps to keep things as watchable as they can - Moretz is fine, as is Nick Robinson as her sometime love interest Ben Parish, although Roe's performance too often feels overcooked. Liev Schreiber meanwhile looks bored with the whole thing, injecting neither charisma nor menace into Colonel Vosch and leaving Maria Bello to provide the only half-decent army presence within the entire film. The script too becomes increasingly problematic as the film progresses, raising key questions that are never answered and finding frustratingly convenient ways to advance the plot rather than attempting to tie matters together logically.
Whilst proving a moderate box office success, it's hard to know where The 5th Wave goes as a franchise from here if it does indeed get the sequel for which Blakeson is clearly gunning. Receiving a 15 certificate in the UK undoubtedly resulted in many of the target audience being unable to actually watch the film, a decision made all the more nonsensical by the fact that this could easily have been reduced to a 12A by removing a few moments of swearing and a bit of blood that nobody would've noticed were missing. The whole thing smacks of the uncertainty of YA adaptations of late: unoriginal, uncertain and, increasingly, unwelcome.