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The 5th Wave review: a second-rate YA sci-fi that we'll have to endure as a series

Aleesha Matharu | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 5:28 IST

There's usually something fun about watching a YA dystopian world. A hostile world where 'tweens = humanity's last hope'; lots of infantile emotions and a love triangle.

What's not to like, right?

But teen book series turned film franchises are starting to wear a little thin. Divergent felt like a pale imitation of Hunger Games, The Maze Runner felt like a pale imitation of Divergent, and now we're one more step removed with The 5th Wave (written by Rick Yancey).

In this one, Chloe Moretz stars as another tough girl in a topsy-turvy world. This time, aliens are to blame. They're taking over the planet. It happened in waves (hence the title).

The first wave shut down all technology. The second wave took the form of a bunch of natural disasters. The third wave was biological warfare. The fourth wave involved aliens that look just like humans coming to Earth. The fifth wave is the final plot reveal (you'll see it coming a mile away).

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In the midst of all that trouble, Cassie Sullivan (Moretz) lost her parents. Now she wanders desolate landscapes clutching guns in search of her little brother Sam (Zackery Arthur). The only comfort she has come in the form of her high school dream boy (Nick Robinson of Jurassic Park, Melissa and Joey) and the often shirtless college boy (Alex Roe) who bandages her leg after she takes a bullet.

Her brother Sam and her high school crush have been rounded up by army officers led by Liev Schreiber. He's training children to become soldiers to kill off the alien threat. So yeah, the world is a big ole' mess.

Thank god Moretz has that love triangle to keep her mind off of things.

The 5th wave embed

A still from the film


But more frustrating than everyone-loves-me angle or the murder-is-good-for you angle is the ever-frustrating sequel baiting. We live in an era where any and every mainstream blockbuster feels like the pilot episode of an ongoing series.

This means that The 5th Wave ends before the third act, and the characters have only accomplished just the one minor task.

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Where the heck are the aliens?

Far more frustrating is that the end-of-the-world sequences last for only the first half hour. I felt cheated, the trailer promised so much more.

Apart from some bogus fake-out sightings, the aliens never truly put in an appearance; and just when you think they'd probably have to, the movie ends - with "to be continued" already promised.

The verdict

And I don't know about you, but when I go to an alien-invasion movie I want to see some aliens actually invading. This is evidently not a priority for director J Blakeson, however, who sticks to formulaically adapting the book to make a slightly colourless film.

RATING: 2.5 out of 5

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First published: 22 January 2016, 11:17 IST
Aleesha Matharu @almatharu

Born in Bihar, raised in Delhi and schooled in Dehradun, Aleesha writes on a range of subjects and worked at The Indian Express before joining Catch as a sub-editor. When not at work you can find her glued to the TV, trying to clear a backlog of shows, or reading her Kindle. Raised on a diet of rock 'n' roll, she's hit occasionally by wanderlust. After an eight-year stint at Welham Girls' School, Delhi University turned out to be an exercise in youthful rebellion before she finally trudged her way to J-school and got the best all-round student award. Now she takes each day as it comes, but isn't an eternal optimist.