NOTE: This review/rant will have spoilers in it because fuck it, this movie doesn’t deserve a fucking spoiler embargo
If the Young Adult genre is finally near its death with the recent conclusion of THE HUNGER GAMES movies, then shit like THE 5TH WAVE are this pathetic genre’s desperate final gasps of breath for life.
That being said, I think it’s pretty fucking obvious that I won’t be mourning the loss of this particular formula of storytelling because it’s more predictable than a shitty fucking local soap opera from the country I hail from. Hell, I’ll be fucking celebrating its demise because finally, one of the laziest kind of movies made in recent memory since the fucking evil surge of PG-13 butcheries of 80’s classics is where it belongs: in a fucking coffin thrown alongside the Fine Brother’s reputation.
As far as I’m concerned, the Young Adult genre is this generation’s form of cinematic laziness come to life and THE 5TH WAVE is the epitome of this effortless crap.
Once again, a Young Adult series of novels is adapted to the big screen in the hopes of creating the next big franchise despite not putting any fucking effort in the very first installment that’s supposed to spike interest in the license at hand. Obviously by my manner of speaking, this movie did a shitty job of making me give a fuck about an alien invasion that can only be stopped by (SURPRISE) a group of spunky non-conformist teenagers who fight an army of walking talking symbols of anti-individuality while they deal with quirky things like a love triangle and family issues. Seen one Young Adult movie, you’ve seen them all.
In this case, the obligatory “Strong Independent Female Lead” who don’t need no man (but in truth she totally does) Cassie is faced with the end of times as the wrath of a hostile alien landgrab that’s about to launch the final stages of their invasion to finally succeed in taking over the planet. On paper, giving a female character a lot of agency such as surviving the looming apocalypse is a great idea that I’d promote any day but Young Adult fiction has a bad tendency to fuck this up big time by always going for the most melodramatic character arcs imaginable, and THE 5TH WAVE is yet another example of this sad error. For the nth time, our female lead’s biggest problem in the end of times or the encroaching evil society’s rule is a romantic one. Rather than focus on the search-and-rescue mission Cassie initially has to save her brother, the movie grinds to a fucking halt to waste nearly an hour on a predictable romance angle with some farmhand beefcake whose only role in the movie is to look as hot and brooding as possible when he’s not taking his shirt off to flex his arms.
It’s very easy to guess what characters would do in this movie because every single one of them is a stereotype. Outside of the engaging romance of Bland Heroine and Beefcake from the previous paragraph, the cast is swamped with even more memorable cardboard cutouts like Boy Next Door, Emo Girl, Nerd, Jock and god knows how many Stupid Fucking Children who do nothing but get everyone older than 10 into trouble. The measurement for trust in this movie is literally determined by how hot a character sees a person of the opposite sex, which doesn’t help in building tension, character development or anything that’s synonymous to good writing for that matter. Let me state right now that there is nothing wrong with following a genre’s template as long as something new is done to the established material like what KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE did to the Spy Genre’s tropes but in the case of THE 5TH WAVE, all it does is follow what’s on the provided checklist before calling it a day. Every time there’s a small hint of of actual creativity in the characters, it gets shot down when the writers decide to make every member of the cast walk the same fucking path that always ends in a potential love triangle (goddamn it, Julia). There’s no semblance of stakes or risk in this story because not only does THE 5TH WAVE do nothing new to this tried and tested subgenre of movies but it does it in the laziest ways imaginable. Characters bump into problem after problem and merely state the obvious without a single bit of emotion in their voice as if they knew long before the title credits even rolled up that the aliens’ plans were fucking stupid but they needed to pay the mortgage, hence their participation in this movie.
But if the leads are shit, the Pointless Villains don’t fare any better. Once again, we have another evil group whose motivations are never explained because, apparently, that’s what mystery should be: no hints of justification from the antagonistic characters, just evil shit happening because fuck you. There’s mystery, there’s intrigue and then there’s unjustified crap like these aliens who want to wipe out humanity but chooses to leave the fully combat and survival trained children alive because they apparently need child soldiers.
The logic that these alien motherfuckers follow is possibly some of the dumbest and most basic shit I’ve seen in quite a while. In a desperate effort to show that these guys are evil, THE 5TH WAVE makes its alien adversaries manipulate children to do their violent bidding and while that may sound interesting in an INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS kind of way where you literally don’t know who to trust but THE 5TH WAVE executes this idea in a juvenile manner that removes all sense of dread because rather than look nefarious, the aliens look stupid as fuck. The logic behind the child soldiers is that they’re easy to manipulate hence them being the choice for the alien’s final attack on the remnants of the human resistance but considering that the aliens managed to control all the human adults via parasitic mind control, doing so made the aliens look lazy as fuck. Then again, these are the same assholes who have the (galactic) Weapons of Mass Destruction that Dubya Bush has been looking for since 2003 and some who decided to take their sweet dandy time in wiping out the stupid humans by executing their genocide in 5 stages instead of one.
This idea only becomes even more cartoonishly ridiculous instead of being the poignant political commentary on a real world problem it aspires to be when the movie makes fucking 8 year olds take up an M4 Carbine and shoot some people because the dude in a military outfit told them do so. Yes, that kind of evil shit sadly happens in parts of the world as we speak but THE 5TH WAVE paints this ordeal to look like a fucking inconvenience that hinders characters from falling in love, holding stuffed bears or hugging people instead of showing just how traumatizing it really is. When all is said and done, the cast of former child soldiers who now (SURPRISE AGAIN, MOTHERFUCKER) represent humanity’s last hope forgets all the trauma of being tricked into killing fellow human beings for the new alien overlords by eating some sweet canned pork n’ beans and the possibility of teenage sex looming in the horizon.
What the fuck.
The movie precedes the end credits by proudly announcing the ultimate action movie cliche that “This is only the beginning. The war has just begun.” as if it’s been set in stone that a bunch of sequels will follow along with spin-offs and prequels literally no one was begging for, but considering how lame and lazy the intro into this story was, THE 5TH WAVE better shove that pride up its asshole because it just drove the final nail in the Young Adult genre’s coffin with enough force to break through the wood and accidentally skullfuck the corpse resting in it.
No, this isn’t the worst movie ever made (that’s got to be an Uwe Boll movie or something from my country) but it was a pretty shitty way to start the new year.
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