At the moment, Hollywood seems to have an insatiable desire to churn out post-apocalyptic or dystopian Young Adult franchises and the latest to join the ranks is The 5th Wave based on the 2013 novel by Rick Yancey and directed by The Disappearance of Alice Creed‘s J Blakeson. The story is relatively simple: Cassie Sullivan (Carrie‘s Chloë Grace Moretz), a high school senior from an attractive middle-class family finds her life turned upside down the day a generic alien mother ship appears in the skies above the USA.
In the ensuing weeks the aliens launch a series of attacks against the populace. The first wave is an EMP that knocks out the electrics, the second wave is a series of tsunamis triggered by the aliens and the third wave is an avian flu pandemic. By the time of the fourth wave (alien possession of human hosts), the population is reduced to rag-tag bands of survivors which include Cassie and her younger brother.
At this point the military intervene and the children are rounded up to be screened for alien parasites (which are much easier to detect in children than adults) and then impressed into military service to weed out the possessed adults.
As is becoming more common in this genre, the filmmakers have jettisoned any sort of originality in favour of every tired YA cliché imaginable supported by stereotyped characterisation with generic design and effects work. The crucial plot ‘twist’ in the penultimate act is so clearly telegraphed from the start that the final act is an anticlimactic race to the unresolved finale necessary to continue the franchise with The Infinite Sea (published 2014) and The Last Star (due later this year).
The juvenile cast seem to have been sourced from the headshots of every child modelling agency in the USA and although the adult cast boasts the talents of Liev Schreiber (The Last Days on Mars) and Ron Livingston (The Conjuring) amongst others, their characters are so severely underwritten they are merely cyphers against whom the children can act out this particular adolescent wish-fulfilment fantasy.
In this, the one saving grace (no pun intended) is the ever dependable Chloë Grace Moretz. Boasting an unfeasibly lustrous mane of hair throughout she brings a level of talent and intelligence to her role which the film doesn’t merit. She holds the attention effortlessly while outshining every other person in the cast and without her this would be just another unwatchable derivative mess of a shampoo advert.