"The waves have begun."
Another young adult novel adaptation, yay. Well to be fair this one would appear to have more potential as it’s not all about dividing teenagers into various factions, making them fight each other in ludicrously extravagant arenas (or not if you’re ‘Divergent’) that will trigger an uprising to overthrow a tyrannical government ….something, something ….love triangle ….umm. Anyway you get the idea, but as it turns out a film with none of those ingreidents can actually be much worse than anything we’ve seen so far from the genre, expect for ‘Twilight’ I guess.
In a world that has been overrun by alien beings known simply as The Others, using various waves to wipe out humanity’s resources (the first ended electricity, the second created tsunamis, the third triggered a lethal plague and a fourth sent snipers to pick off those who remain), only a handful of survivors remain. One girl must race to uncover a hidden plot and save her brother from a secret training camp before the imminent and unknown fifth wave.
While the first act of ‘The 5th Wave’ avoids falling into these clichés, at the half hour mark it dawned upon me that I was once again watching a film in which a lonely teenager wonders through a dystopian future, oppressed by a seemingly all powerful force, drifts into a love triangle and ultimately starts a revolution before (spoiler, but do you really care?) venturing off into an unknown future.
These similarities would not condemn the film if it could find a way to put a new and interesting spin on them, a unique style, plot or perspective perhaps? But ‘The 5th Wave has trouble finding it’s tone for a majority of the film and contrary to these separate tropes of current young adult adaptations being intelligently integrated they appear to be separately knitted together with little imagination or novelty. Earlier I was describing tropes of the genre but I might as well have been siting the sections of the film. It deviates wildly from the central plot to establish some kind of love story, then changes trajectory to include something about overthrowing the established order. It all just seems unimaginative and very rudimentary.
The film takes a nose dive into the realm of boredom to become so utterly generic at a point in which our protagonist meets a boy in the woods, having escaped the apocalypse behind them and at that moment the film just stops dead. It shoves everything aside to try and establish some kind of connection with them by way of awkward eye contact, nervous closeness and one watching the other while bathing. The apparent slaughter behind them simply ends in favour of this romance. While I’m not against the idea of adding that aspect to the film they could have made more effort into weaving it throughout the story and other events rather than just bring everything to a halt right there.
From that moment the film never recovers, if anything it just seems to get worse, as if they pooled the barrel of conventions and kept reaching for more as the film progressed. When they finally get around to crafting a plot and development it is literally done in the laziest and most basic way imaginable where an army officer simply tells them every detail of the events that have transpired, one after the other until the audience, I mean the characters, are up to speed. Character depth is practically non-existent. What do you want to know about the hero Cassie? She’s a strong and independent teenager ….that’s it. There is rarely a moment of vulnerability or complexity, she just goes from one point to the next as a plot device.
Surprisingly there is some impressive directing on display here for some sections of the film. The apocalyptic wasteland scenes are well staged and designed with a sense of scale to give the viewer an idea over the size of this destruction. It’s also subtly brutal at times with corpses piled high among the debris, the only thing that spoils it is the colour pallet and cinematography that are much too bright to match the tone the story is trying to go for.
‘The 5th Wave’ is about as basic as they come, ticking off one cliché after another.