Even though KUNG FU PANDA 3 is the only movie I think is going to be good this month, this movie didn’t seem like it’d be the worst. It had a pretty solid cast: Chloë Grace Moretz, Liev Schreiber, Nick Robinson, I had to admit, I was at least curious about this one, which is more than I can say about the rest of the films that had been coming out. Anyway, it was after work, it was starting soon, got my popcorn, and watched it. This is my honest opinion of THE 5TH WAVE.
Based on the young adult novel of the same name, the story follows Cassie (Chloë Grace Moretz), a normal teenage girl who is a survivor of an alien invasion that nearly destroys humanity in four waves of attacks: destroying all power, then using the environment against humans, then biological warfare, then to date, the fourth wave is the alien invaders, known simply as the Others, taking over the minds of hapless humans and controlling them. Cassie first lost her mother to the third wave’s pestilence, then her father during the fourth wave’s military killing the adults by accident, and also losing her younger brother Sammy (Zackary Arthur) to the military when separated. Determined to reunite with Sammy, Cassie must learn to survive on her own and learn who she can and cannot trust.
I have to admit, I didn’t hate this movie. I won’t say it’s… good, but it was a decent watch for me.
Alright, let me get the bad stuff out of the way, as there is quite a bit. First of all, this is CLEARLY a young adult novel. Tell me if you’ve heard this before: a teenage girl in a post-apocalyptic backdrop (Hunger Games), spends most of her time in a forest (Hunger Games), with a boy that she initially doesn’t know if she can trust (Hunger Games), but ultimately does and even falls for (Hunger Games). Yeah, some of that sounds familiar to me too, but I can’t quite remember from where. Oh, I’m sure the internet will let me know sooner or later.
Yeah, it’s almost beat for beat the same basic plot of THE HUNGER GAMES. Sorry if I spoiled anything for anyone, but it’s not entirely a spoiler if you can guess where this sub-plot is going the moment it rears it’s face on screen. To make matters worse, Cassie is not the best of written characters. She gets separated from her brother, vows to reunite with him, and what does she do? Makes time to gawk at a good-looking shirtless dude and get her panties wet. Way to set your priorities, girl. Your five-year-old brother is all alone in an unfamiliar place full of scary men with automatic rifles, but fuck that shit the power of lady-boners cannot be denied!
In fact, that same shirtless guy (oh, excuse me, Evan Walker played by Alex Roe) is an extremely piss-poor character.
So Cassie gets shot in the leg early on in the story. She meets Evan who found her unconscious, takes her to safety, and bandages her leg. Cassie eventually finds out that Evan is an Other who has gone AWOL and chooses to fight against his own people. And what is the reason for this? BECAUSE THE POWER OF BONERS CANNOT BE DENIED!!! Yup… because he thought Cassie was a hottie, he wants to switch sides. Dude, for all you knew, she was a psychotic white girl who bites off dicks and eats them, and then eats the rest of you. Oh yeah, and you read her journal and she’s okay with that. What a fucking load.
Another issue I took with the story is this: I did a bit of research into the original book and the book seemed to not hide that the military was being controlled by the Others, whereas the movie tries to by making the deaths of the innocent people in the refugee camp seem like a regretful accident, rather than bad guys slaughtering innocent people for no reason. The only problem is… the movie isn’t very good at hiding it and ultimately, the reveal makes the Others having a moral compass a questionable decision, as they don’t have one later on in the movie.
Also is that what “the Others” are called in the book? Does no one see how awkward that is, grammatically? “You’re an Other!” You see? It’s weird to look at and even weirder to say! Bleh! I feel like I need a breath mint after thinking about it.
Yeah, as you can see, the script is awful.
Even though this movie is definitely a formulaic young adult story with an atrocious script, I have to admit that there are a few things I liked about it.
First of all, even though Katniss from The Hunger Games series is a better character, I just don’t think Jennifer Lawrence was that good an actress in the role (CATCHING FIRE excluded; she was amazing in that). Moretz on the other hand has always been a great young actress, probably one of my favorites. The movie does set a fabulous tone with her carrying an automatic rifle and kills a guy that she thinks is a threat, but is revealed that she killed him wrongfully. But the expression on her face clearly suggests that she didn’t mean to kill him for the wrong reasons (even though this guy could have easily just said that he was wearing a cross and not carrying an alien weapon). This was nearly as good as season one WALKING DEAD’s intro. This was a story of survival, isolation, moral ambiguity (too bad the rest of the movie didn’t follow suit to this amazing opening).
I also enjoyed Robinson as Ben. You can tell this was a guy who’d lost everything to aliens. You see the rage, the suffering in his eyes when he’s recruited into the military to fight against the aliens and his willingness to kill them. To have lost so much in such a short amount of time, I was totally sympathetic to his character and his motivations. I also enjoyed that this was the only character who has direct contact with a girl his age and they DON’T hook up at the end (why can’t other young adult adaptations do this?). And don’t get me started on how much fun Maika Monroe is as Ringer, even if her performance is forced. And finally, Schreiber is always a fun bad guy and I liked him in this role too, even if it is just a standard “Schreiber glares at the camera” kind of role for him.
I do want to give a shout out to something I appreciated that this movie did before I wrap up my review. Maybe it’s just me, but in THE HUNGER GAMES, I felt like the movie was an adaptation. I know it is, but this is what I mean: the physical dialog said in the movie FELT like it was pulled straight from the novel. The movie never seemed to try to make any changes to the dialog to make it feel natural. What works in a book is one thing, but what works cinematically is another deal entirely. That changed in CATCHING FIRE when the dialog felt a lot more natural in the movie. These were people talking like real people instead of characters from a book. You see where I’m getting at? That’s what this movie did for me. While certainly the script was bad, at least it didn’t FEEL like it was an adaptation of a book. The script was at least trying to do its own thing instead of being a copy and paste of the original source material. It ultimately fails to be well-written, but I can appreciate that much about it.
While the movie is terribly written, it abandons sensibility way too much, and the characters are morons, I can’t help but look at this like a guilty pleasure. It takes itself so seriously, even though everything it’s done has been done a million times before. I just got a huge kick out of it. Maybe I’m just so desperate to not hate SOMETHING this month that I’m just lying to myself that I don’t hate it, even though I secretly might. I don’t know if I can recommend this movie to anyone, I sure didn’t mind seeing it, but the trend of bad January movies continues.
A strong 3/5 for entertainment