The 5th Wave

By: Kevin Jordan

Mars Attacks.

5th wave

I have a soft spot for Young Adult dystopian/science fiction/fantasy novels.  I’ve read most of those that have been adapted into movies, and I had every intention of reading The 5th Wave prior to its movie release.  Alas, I’m not a young adult and things like kids, jobs, and wives (not necessarily in that order) tend to get into the way of some recreational activities.  So, I went into the adaptation of The 5th Wave with no foreknowledge of what we were about to see.  In hindsight, I wish I had read the book first because, if it’s an anything close to what we saw in the film, then my expectations would have been much lower.

The 5th Wave is a story about what would happen if really dumb aliens invaded the Earth.  Don’t get me wrong – they still manage to kill a large portion of humanity, but their master plan leaves a lot to be desired.  Our main character is Cassie Sullivan (Chloe Grace Moretz), a high-school student who has the responsibility of narrating some of the plot to us.  When the aliens show up and start attacking the Earth, she describes the first three waves of attack because she doesn’t know we’re watching her in a movie and the screenwriters think we are blind moviegoers.

(This is the point where, if you are worried about SPOILERS, you should look away.)

The first wave is a global electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that ruins all electronics and stops all electricity on the planet.  That’s a great start to a war considering how reliant we are on gadgets and electrons.  +1 aliens.  The second wave is global earthquakes that also cause tsunamis and mass flooding.  Considering 70% of the world’s population lives on the coast, the aliens have got a massive head start and they haven’t even left their ship yet.  Again, +1 aliens.  The third wave is even more diabolical – they alter the bird flu to be wildly deadly and use the 300 billion birds on the planet to spread the disease.  As great an idea as this sounds, you might wonder why they didn’t use this one first since their goal is eventually stated as wanting the Earth, but doing as little damage as possible to it.  Using birds to spread the virus is also really inefficient because birds tend to stay away from humans, plus the second wave wiped out 70% of your potential carriers.  Hmmm….maybe we shouldn’t think too hard about that.  +1/2 aliens?

At this point in the story, most of humanity has been wiped out and the aliens just need to do some mopping up of the remaining pockets of people.  Any decent conquerors would send out squads or something to hunt down these humans, but these aliens have a better idea.  First, they activate sleeper agents, which apparently includes every human in the military.  By now, young Cassie, her father (Ron Livingstone), and her brother Sammy (Zackary Arthur) have joined up with other refugees at a camp in the woods.  This makes total sense because after fleeing population centers for fear of being a target, the next best idea is to regroup in large numbers in easily found places.  But I digress.

Eventually, the military shows up, led by Colonel Vosch (Liev Schreiber).  They tell the people that they are there to help and will be bussing the kids off to the local Air Force base, then returning to get the kids.  None of the parents thinks it’s weird that not even mothers are taken with the children, but we already know they have bad survival instincts.  During the evacuation, Cassie gets separated from her brother and misses the bus, then witnesses the aliens doing another dumb thing.  They gather all of the parents into a meeting hall, don’t disarm them, then tell them that the fourth wave is that the aliens can possess humans and that any of them could be an alien in disguise.  Predictably, the people panic and start shooting, yet somehow manage to kill just one alien.  Even more strange is that the aliens would knowingly cause a panic while still in the same room with the people wielding guns.  Whatever… -1 aliens.

We’re soon told that the fifth wave is the full on invasion by the aliens, but this is just a trick by the aliens to get kids to join the military.  The military tell the kids that they have figured out how to identify possessed humans – Google Glass.  No, seriously – they’ve attached a thing to a helmet that when looked through, makes a possessed human’s head glow green with a big red box around it.  Yes, it looks as hokey as it sounds and it’s also bullshit.  The thing doesn’t actually work and the kids don’t realize that they’re actually just shooting fellow humans.  This is the best plan that an advanced alien race can come up with??  You have the power to manipulate viruses, pop off planetary EMPs, and initiate earthquakes…but let’s trick kids into shooting people! (*eye roll*)  -10 aliens.

If all of this weren’t bad enough, there is a standard-issue romance subplot between Cassie and a possessed human named Evan (Alex Roe).  I’m not even going to get into how pathetically shallow this story was, but for all you teenage girls out there, Evan gets naked in a river (and you could shred cheese on his abs), bangs one out with Cassie in the back of an abandoned SUV, and professes that he has chosen his human side over his alien side for love.  That sounds you hear is me throwing up in my mouth a little bit.

In all fairness, if I were twelve, I probably would have liked the movie better.  It’s entertaining in a brainless kind of way and, when I was twelve, I wouldn’t have noticed how completely stupid the aliens were with waves four and five of their plan (plus, by all appearances, they only brought one ship to conquer an entire planet).  There is a really good chance that these aliens are just a group of drunk fraternity pledges winging this invasion as part of their initiation.  Of course, even as a twelve year old, I would have noticed how much the terrible graphics reminded me of Mars Attacks! and that Mars Attacks! was a much more entertaining and clever movie.  -25 aliens.

Rating: Ask for all of your money back, but your twelve-year old can do what she wants.