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    The 5th Wave (2016): Movie Review

    "Less weight, less punch, but more romance than necessary.” 

    Another group of cute teenagers are bound to save the world from near annihilation in The 5th Wave. Directed by J Blakeson, the film is an adaptation of Rick Yancey’s 2013 novel of the same title. Light, compact but lacking punch and focus, this Columbia Pictures’ entry to the young adult dystopian bandwagon may have imperfectly captured the charm in the book but will still receive fair of commercial success and recognition from genre fans.

    Cassie Sullivan (Chloe Grace Moretz) is a normal high school student doing usual high school stuff. Everything changes when an alien craft appears in the sky and begins spreading terror. The “Others,” as what people call them, starts by sending electromagnetic pulses that takes out power, covering the whole world with darkness. The second wave hits and floods and tsunamis destroy major cities. During the third wave where an avian flu strikes the remaining survivors, Cassie’s mother Lisa (Maggie Siff) dies. Cassie and her family are then forced to move into a nearby evacuation campsite.

    The fourth wave is more cruel as the aliens take on human forms and begin killing people. A group of soldiers led by Colonel Vosch (Liev Schreiber) inexplicably appear and haul the children, promising to take them into a high security military center. Incidentally, Cassie is left behind by the bus and watches in horror as the adults, including her father Oliver (Ron Livingston), are slaughtered in the ensuing chaos. In the center, Cassie’s younger brother Sammy (Zackary Arthur) is enlisted in a squad that includes his sister’s old crush, Ben Parish (Nick Robinson), and kickass sharp-shooter Ringer (Maika Monroe). Meanwhile, Cassie embarks on a perilous journey to reclaim her brother from the military base, aided by a mysterious and dashing farm-boy named Evan Walker (Alex Roe). 

    The 5th Wave takes off promisingly. Unlike other similar films, it begins clearly right from the start, projecting Earthly sense not so much felt in Divergent and The Hunger Games. It offers original spin on the genre tropes by depicting a deliberately slow invasion attacks from alien life through different methods. The first half of the movie is fast-paced, presenting most of the waves as flashbacks. Perhaps, these are also some of the film’s strongest visual points, especially during the second wave when water rushes in from a broken dam in Cassie’s Ohioan hometown and tidal waves smashed into Miami and the London Bridge. Such apocalyptic images are utterly petrifying. However, the scenes seem rushed, as if director Blakeson wants to do away with the destruction quickly and move on with the narrative.

    Unfortunately, the film becomes mechanical and dull after those moments, following the same formula in many YA apocalyptic features. We see another teenager heroine whose quest to find a loved one helps the world from being completely obliterated. She gathers her own army of good-looking friends and launches a counterattack against the opposing force.

    For a movie that deals with the end of the world, The 5th Wave also feels light on the surface. It tries to be sentimental but the investment is not enough to touch heartstrings. There is no sufficient tone of desperation and helplessness. Even the dynamics between Cassie, her dad, and her little brother Sammy does not have enough power and genuineness that it is hard to care about what happens between them.

    Worse, the movie intentionally develops romantic elements between the leads. This might have worked in the book as the power of words can create believability; but in the film, it is plainly unnecessary. This also makes the film unfocused, as well as its confusion on whether to portray a worldwide perspective or remain closely within Cassie’s circle. Such inability to create solid tone and mood makes it bland and generic. Its ending also does not help because like the start, it is hurried and perfunctory.

    Cassie’s character is also underdeveloped and she never manages to come to life. Moretz tries hard to make the most of it and somehow her innate charisma make Cassie a watchable figure. Livingston and Schreiber both maximize their limited screen times and deliver the necessary drama. Young actors Robinson and Roe also have strong presence but like Cassie, their characters just lack soul. 

    The 5th Wave is a decent but not impressive adaptation of its best-selling source material. While both its start and ending are rushed, its middle is light and staggering. It is like a burger with the buns on the center. But this is another dystopian film featuring beautiful kids so we can expect to see two (or three?) installments very soon. 

    Production companies: Columbia Pictures, GK Films, LStar Capital, Living Films, Material Picture 
    Cast: Chloe Grace Moretz, Nick Robinson, Ron Livingston, Zackary Arthur, Maggie Siff, Liev Schreiber, Maria Bello, Maika Monroe, Alex Roe, Tony Revolori, Talitha Bateman, Nadji Jeter, Alex MacNicoll 
    Director: J Blakeson 
    Writers: Susannah Grant, Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner 
    Producers: Tobey Maguire, Graham King, Matthew Plouffe, Lynn Harris 
    Executive producers: Richard Middleton, Denis O’Sullivan, Ben Waisbren 
    Music: Henry Jackman 
    Director of photography: Enrique Chediak 
    Production designer: Jon Billington 
    Costume designer: Sharen Davis 
    Editor: Paul Rubell


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