Two out of five kernels
“The 5th Wave” is a movie you can wave on by if you’re looking for an intriguing apocalyptic story with interesting characters and enticing plot.
Thanks to an alien invasion, “The 5th Wave” combines elements of almost every apocalypse story ever told.
- The first wave: The electricity goes out, and there’s no technology of any kind (“Mad Max”).
- The second wave: natural disasters, earthquakes, floods, you name it (“2012,” “The Day After Tomorrow”)
- The third wave: disease, specifically the avian flu (“Contagion,” “World War Z”).
- The fourth wave: The aliens inhabit human hosts, leaving normal humans unable to tell friend from foe (“The Host,” “The Thing”).
This is where we find Cassie (Chloe Grace Moretz). She has been separated from her brother Sam (Zackary Arthur) and will stop at nothing to find him again. Cassie finds herself in a perilous world — she’s all alone, and it’s getting more dangerous every day because the fifth wave is coming: Kill the remaining population one by one.
However, life isn’t all bad for Cassie. She eventually meets a handsome stranger Evan (Alex Roe), and even though she’s in trouble she’s not dead, so despite the encroaching end of the world she still has time for a little romance.
The idea behind “The Fifth Wave” is commendable. An alien invasion takes away everything and sends the whole world into such a panic of fear that humans are robbed of their humanity.
Too bad it’s executed so poorly.
The first 40 minutes of the movie recaps, in flashbacks, everything that has happened. And then the story line is right back where it started. Nothing has moved forward.
The plot is further muddled as the narrative flips from Cassie’s story to Sam’s, or more accurately Ben’s (Nick Robinson), who is with Sam at a military base training to fight aliens.
The action vacillates between Cassie walking and training montages at the base. All the flip-flopping means no characters are really developed because not enough time is spent on any of them. It also makes it confusing as to whose story is really being told.
Even worse, Ben’s storyline is far more interesting than what’s happening to Cassie and Mr. Pretty-face wandering in the wilderness. But nothing is added on Ben’s side of the story. All of a sudden we’re in military barracks, and they’re talking about squads, squad leaders and military discipline, with no explanation of how or why or what is happening.
Then, because the story took so long to unfold, the climax is wrapped up in about 15 minutes. And nothing really happens there, either.
“The Fifth Wave” takes numerous stories that have already been told and combines them into a mangled mess. The fractured film fails to captivate its audience and make a ripple, much less a wave.