Chloë Grace Moretz plays young Cassie Sullivan, orphaned in the aftermath of an alien invasion that has struck in five distinct waves; an electromagnetic pulse shuts down the power, earthquakes and tidal waves devastate the cities, a virulent Avian virus wipes out many survivors, alien snipers pick off others, and finally the aliens manage to take over human bodies making it virtually impossible for them to be distinguishable from humans themselves. Cassie sets off to rescue her younger brother Sam, taken by the military to be trained into a crack resistance force apparently consisting entirely of tots and teenagers, but is injured and finds herself falling in with the brooding, mysterious woods-dwelling Evan Walker (Roe). Inevitably, young hormones do what they will do but Evan isn’t quite who he seems and neither, for that matter, are the military as they send their miniature warriors into battle.
This is all well and good and there’s nothing much wrong here. But the film’s pace and tone are all over the place. The big set pieces are front-loaded into the first twenty minutes of the film and we don’t see a great deal of the carnage the aliens cause as their subsequent ‘waves’ pummel the Earth. The film seems to be in a rush to set out its post-invasion stall and we’re left with a film which places its emphasis on Cassie mooning over Evan (the scene where she virtually flutters her eyelashes on seeing him taking a topless wash in a lake can only elicit sniggers from the audience) and scenes which evoke unwanted memories of the lifeless Ender’s Game as the military-enlisted kids are trained for battle. The energy level starts to rise again in the last reel but we’re still just left with scenes of teenagers running around with machine guns, a few perfunctory explosions and a story that, by the nature of its source material, remains frustratingly open-ended come the credits.
The 5th Wave certainly isn’t fifth rate – Moretz acquits herself well as the no-nonsense Cassie, forced to grow up quickly in terrible circumstances - but it never shifts out of first gear and doesn’t really possess that indefinable something which powers the very best and most successful YA series. Budgeted at around $40 million, it’ll probably turn a minor worldwide Box Office profit but its poor opening weekend stateside suggests we can probably wave bye-bye to any hope of seeing the rest of the trilogy on screen anytime soon.
THE 5TH WAVE / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: J BLAKESON / SCREENPLAY: SUSANNAH GRANT, AKIVA GOLDSMAN, JEFF PINKNER / STARRING CHLOË GRACE MORETZ, NICK ROBINSON, RON LIVINGSTON, MAGGIE SIFF, ALEX ROWE, LIEV SCHRIEBER / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Expected rating: 7 out of 10