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"THE 5TH WAVE"
(2016) (Chloe Grace Moretz, Nick Robinson) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Sci-Fi: A teenager and others must contend with an extraterrestrial invasion of Earth.
PLOT:
Cassie Sullivan (CHLOE GRACE MORETZ) is a normal high school teenager who lives with her parents, Oliver (RON LIVINGSTON) and Lisa (MAGGIE SIFF), along with her younger brother, Sam (ZACKARY ARTHUR), in an Ohio suburb. Her biggest concern is some guy not showing up at a high school party, but that's quickly overshadowed one day when massive extraterrestrial ships arrive on Earth, seemingly intent on wiping out all of humanity. That begins with a first wave of electromagnetic pulses that kill all power and anything with an engine. A second wave of massive flooding kills millions, and that's followed by a pandemic that wipes out most of the rest.

Cassie, Sam and their dad end up in a refugee camp that soon sees the arrival of the U.S. Army lead by Col. Vosch (LIEV SCHREIBER). He informs them that the next wave is coming, and that all of the kids should be driven to the local military base for testing, as it seems the aliens have now started inhabiting humans and thus could be among any of them. What they're really doing, however, is creating a kid army, run by Sgt. Reznik (MARIA BELLO), to battle those infected humans. Among them is Cassie's former high school classmate, Ben "Zombie" Parish (NICK ROBINSON), along with the likes of Teacup (TALITHA BATEMAN), Oompa (CADE CANON BALL), Flintstone (ALEX MacNICOLL), Poundcake (NADJI JETER), Tank (FLYNN McHOUGH) and Ringer (MAIKA MONROE), a tough girl who can easily handle her own and clashes with Ben, their troop's appointed leader.

Cassie, however, isn't among them, having missed the bus, and thus strikes out on her own following a massacre. She ends up shot but then tended to by Evan Walker (ALEX ROE), a young man who's also lost his family and offers to help Cassie make her way to the military base in hopes of finding Sam. As they do so, they must contend with various perils along the way, all while the kids at the camp are trained and then sent out into combat.

OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
Immediately upon exiting our press screening of "The 5th Wave" -- the latest post-apocalyptic young adult novel to be turned into a movie, this time featuring aliens that attack Earth -- I told another reviewer, "That's why the aliens want to kill us." It's not because of obnoxious teenage characters who, as one of them points out, believe that any dilemma, setback, denial or bump in the road they face is the end of the world. And it's not because of horrid TV sitcoms we've beamed into outer space that would cause extraterrestrials to believe our species must be a scourge that needs to be eliminated, simply for having created and subjected the masses to such "entertainment."

No, it's because the offering -- based on Rick Yancey's 2013 novel of the same name -- is a bad movie. As in you better flex your eye muscles before seeing it because some serious ocular rolling will occur over the course of nearly two hours of such ridiculousness. I haven't read Yancey's source work, but hear it was generally well-received, even if being clearly derivative of and certainly riding the coattails of earlier related works such as the "Hunger Games," "Divergent" and "Maze Runner" franchises.

I don't think critics will have the same positive reaction to this adaptation, despite the efforts of screenwriters Susannah Grant ("Erin Brockovich") and Akiva Goldsman ("A Beautiful Mind") & Jeff Pinkner (TV's "Alias") to bring the story to the big screen and tap into the same sort of viewers who turned those other YA novel adaptations into hits. Despite star Chloe Grace Moretz trying to breathe some life into her character and thus the overall pic, it just doesn't work.

Actually, and to be fair, it kind of does at the very beginning despite the unnecessary and irritating use of one of those placeholder scenes that opens the film, only to have everything then rewind and show us what leads up to that point. Notwithstanding that, director J Blakeson doesn't waste much time in getting down to business or, apparently, spending most of the film's budget. Following some brief bits showing Moretz as a typical Ohio teen living a typical Ohio life, "the others" arrive in their spaceship and proceed to kill all power, resulting in a passenger jet falling from the sky. That's followed by a flood that nearly sweeps away our protagonist and her kid brother (Zackary Arthur), followed by the real money shots of various cities being pummeled and swamped by gargantuan tidal waves.

After that we're in true, immediate post-apocalyptic territory, unlike other YA films that start quite a bit of time after whatever end of the world disaster has visited them. Cassie, Sam and their dad (Ron Livingston) then set off away from their once comfortable suburban home and the film then quickly goes downhill from there. Situated in a refugee camp, the military shows up -- lead by Liev Schreiber -- but none of the survivors seem to show any wonder or concern about how the army got their vehicles to work when no others in the immediate vicinity and likely world can hold that claim. If astute viewers haven't already figured out where the film is headed at that point and what the "big secret" is, well, you're on your own when and if Armageddon ever really arrives.

Things go from bad to worse when the kids are taken to a military base and trained -- by the likes of Maria Bello's character -- to become elite military soldiers. We're not just talking teenagers, folks, but also fairly young kids who, natch, after a montage or two, are ready to be locked and loaded. I get what they're going for -- young warriors like in all of the other YA films, but it just doesn't work here and actually turns quite silly in its stupidity. Away from there, our protagonist is searching for her now separated younger brother, and ends up nursed back to health -- after taking a gunshot to the thigh -- by a hunky young man (Alex Roe) who's so buff that his lake bathing and taut pecs and abs make Cassie swoon.

Yeah, you can say uh-oh now because we know she had the hots for a classmate (Nick Robinson) who's now the platoon leader of those kids. Go ahead and cue the budding romantic triangle that tween and young teen girl viewers seem to lap up like thirsty kitties. And thus the soap opera antics mix with the shoot 'em up military scenes, all while it becomes quite obvious most of the production money went to those earlier special effects sequences. That results in an in-your-face, been there, seen it all before but done in a better way reaction. We don't even get to see the true aliens (at least those not hiding in and thus posing as humans) which might be a good thing because they're apparently dumb but lucky invaders who somehow managed to kill nearly everyone via various forms of high tech wizardry, yet never quite figured out that infrared cameras could easily be used to spot and thus eliminate the pesky survivors.

Alas, the ending, not surprisingly, doesn't have a clear resolution and thus sets up the far too obvious possibility of a sequel (it actually feels somewhat like a middle chapter film in that regard). Here's hoping that the alien invaders figure out how to finish the job before that unrequested "The 6th Wave" or "Revenge of the 5th Wave" starts shooting. Clunky, predictable and not at all engaging, "The 5th Wave" rates as a 3 out of 10.




Reviewed January 20, 2016 / Posted January 22, 2016


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