Movie Review: The 5th Wave (2016)

If you were one of the six people who saw The Host then picture that movie with a better premise and worse exposition and characters and you are good. If not stay tuned.

Spoilers below and not like those times I say spoilers and then decide against them. I can’t talk about this movie without explicit plot details. I will try to avoid the major plot twist that if you don’t see coming this must be your first movie so congrats on that and I promise there are better options for you if you decide to give the medium a second chance.

Now, you may hear this movie is terrible. That it isn’t worth seeing. That it shouldn’t have been made. And all that may be true but there is a redeeming factor. This movie is gold if you love movies that are good terrible. I enjoy a well written movie but I can find joy in a terrible one sometimes and this is one of those times. I almost cheered in the theater when my plot guesses panned out more terribly than I could have hoped for.

Here is the best part about this movie, I walked into a reasonably crowded theater with people I knew had no idea what the movie was actually going to be about. I hadn’t done my homework ahead of time so I wasn’t sure but a brief glance at the promotional material told me one thing, this was aimed at millennials. And many of the people in the theater were not the target audience. because while the initial feel of the movie puts it in the end of the world War of the Worlds category one look at the cast told me this was a Y.A. post-apocalyptic story and some of the people in the theater were going to be displeased when the romance surfaced.

And that is exactly what this movie was. Aliens come to Earth, attach to some humans. We have a girl who has to come into her own and be B.A. in order to save her brother. There is a romance between a human and an alien that turns the alien to the side of humankind turning the tides on the war a little and movie ends with a lot of fighting left to do but an optimistic tone because the species has a bunch of teens and children with minimal combat training. Which sounds a whole lot like The Host. But hey, Sci-Fi writers borrow from each other all the time so I won’t say borrowing in this case is a bad thing.

Except I will because what I loved about The Host was the romance plot. It knew it was a Y.A. romance and it didn’t pretend. This movie, on the other hand, doesn’t even give in to its fate until halfway through. Instead of playing up the characters, who were actually solid. they tried to make a way too complicated plot about aliens encompass a love story on the side.

Part one of the movie was actually great. The acting was strong from all involved. I was all like, “Am I wrong? Is this not a Y.A. romance? Do we actually get a strong female character with no love plot? Is this script really as tight and well-paced as I think it is? Are these hard choices and sacrifices and thinking moments going to be a catalyst for serious conversation?” That lasted to wave four.

At least I think it was wave four. We don’t really have a clear definition of what that wave was. Waves one, two, and three are impossible to miss. Wave four is either “they walk among us taking out the survivors” which seems pointless with wave five or it was whatever made the army “gather the children” which also seems way less intimidating than the previous waves. Like, first three waves = almost complete annihilation of the species, fourth wave is a few people in the woods with guns and some children at boot camp. Whatever the actual fourth wave was it was also when the writing just died.

We got an alien deviating because of love. Some kid who should never be in charge of anything leading other kids into battle. Really smart aliens making some really stupid decisions. Survivors out in the open in cities. Physically impossible explanations of how the aliens take over bodies, like, there is literally not enough space in that part of the skull nor are the areas being attached to the right areas. Eight-year-old warriors against superhuman aliens which is stupid because the aliens are like brain parasites so the infested humans shouldn’t all of a sudden be able to survive damage that would have previously done at the minimum some internal damage.

I know what this movie was going for. It wanted to be a conversation on us hurting the planet and the monsters we can all be and our dependence on resources and power and medicine. It was doing a darn good job at that and then it decided that what it also needed to be was a lesson on love and love’s power to change the world. We get some amazing lines. Not direct quotes but close enough: “Teenager to alien: We would never do this to another species. Alien: You’ve been doing this all along.” Deep. WWF probably jumped to team aliens at that line. I was impressed. But then the writers turned around and gave us this: “Hot alien who I checked and is age appropriate for me thank goodness because some of these kids these days are a little young so now I need to check every time before I fantasize: My species doesn’t believe in love. We believe love is a weakness. Teenage girl: Is that what you believe!? Hot alien: I used to but then I saw you.” So yeah, part one vs. part two people.

I will applaud the casting here. I like to call out when we actually do a decent job at casting people within an acceptable age range. Even since the 30-something year old high schooler on Hannah Montana and the late 20’s playing high schoolers on pretty much every TV show and movie in my childhood I like it when casting actually is close. Chloe Grace Mretz, actual age = 18, age in movie = I’m guessing Sophomore or Junior in high school, good enough for me. Nick Robinson, actual age = 20, age in movie = either Chloe’s character’s age or a little older maybe like Junior or Senior in high school. Alex Roe (probably the biggest stretch age wise for me), actual age = 25, age in movie = I’m thinking 18-20 since he mentioned having a college scholarship and it was fall so not application time yet so he probably already is college aged and not a senior in high school and maybe came home after the first wave but when he is next to Chloe they do look age appropriate for each other and not statutory so he passes. If I had to look up his age to make sure I was allowed to add him to my list of men I would cast in my leading man role (I don’t pick guys that are closer to my little brother’s age than mine) then I can accept them playing younger roles.

The acting in the movie was okay. I won’t make any callouts since I think it would be unfair to judge the actors on skills that they weren’t allowed to use. I think the failure here is on the writers since the cast seemed capable. I think if the actors had had better opportunities to show their characters I would have been impressed but instead we got slammed in the face with static stereotypes like: black-haired, dark eye makeup girl with an attitude problem; father who would do anything for his children; high school quarterback, all around liked guy, goes through emotional trauma but still manages to end the movie like an honor student even though he has killed.

There were some funny lines, some great ideas, some strong plot points, and then with two incredibly obvious plot twists the writers snapped the neck of any chance they had at making this movie respectable.

Verdict: This is a Y.A. romance and not even one of the good ones. It is great if you want to laugh at poor writing. Like, if you love betting on plot twists, being right, and feeling like an omnipotent god then this is your flick. If you want an okay Y.A. alien invasion romance The Host is available to rent on iTunes for less than the price of a ticket at the theater. Pretty kid friendly but be wary of some of the heavier moments. Not an alien action flick. More moments with the teen girl running alone with a gun through the woods than any actual shooting. Would probably make a pretty decent drinking game.


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