Starring Chloe Grace Moretz, Nick Robinson, Live Schreiber, Alex Roe, Ron Livingston, Maika Monroe and Maria Bello
Based on the novel by Rick Yancey
Screenplay by Susanna Grant, Akiva Goldsman and Jeff Pinkner
Directed by J Blakeson
Leonardo DaVinci foresaw manned flight. Orson Scott Card foresaw the internet. But there are some things about the future that no one can predict, no matter how much foresight they possess, and the post apocalyptic teeny bopper genre is most certainly one of those things.
For all of its many detractors (and I count myself as one) the success of the Twilight saga showed the entertainment world that there was an audience desperately crying out for stories centered around young female protagonists, and as such, it has actually had a very positive effect. The Hunger Games franchise was so far above the aforementioned title in terms of a compelling story and characters that it crossed over into appealing to many adults, and it has changed the popular notion of what a story for girls is supposed to be. You may be tired of these kinds of movies. The latest installment of the Detergent series may not interest you, but there is a large group that not only wants this, but needs to be represented. So, as badly done, backward and backhandedly sexist as Twilight most certainly was, I still applaud what it has done for a generation.
Unfortunately, as is always the case, the message that creators of popular fiction have taken from this is just as much that churning out variations on the same old thing tailored to fit the current trend means an easy return on your investment as that girls are people, too. Whether it's callous but stylish wise-cracking hitmen or teenage girls facing down the end of the world, it's always easier to just copy than it is to create. The 5th Wave is he latest movie trying to cash in, and to say that it is nothing more than War of the Worlds in a training bra is frankly being too kind.
Cassie (Chloe Grace Moretz) is a regular teenage girl with regular dreams, which she dutifully jots down in a diary, according to the Hollywood teenage girl handbook. She is also a cheerleader, and she has a crush on a football player. But her entire world (not to mention everyone else's) is drastically changed by the arrival of "The Others," which is the name that mankind gives to the inhabitants of mysterious spacecraft that appear around the world, hovering over cities and suburban neighborhoods, but not attempting to make contact, making everyone over 20 in the audience suddenly want to watch Independence Day. But of course, when "The Others" do make contact, they do it in the form of wanton mayhem and destruction in an attempt to exterminate the human race, because they too have a Hollywood handbook to follow.
Cassie and her father and brother Sammy end up in a military facility for survivors (I honestly can't remember what happened to Mom, or if she eve existed, it was so hard to care.). It is there that they are informed that these invaders can take human form, and may be amongst them now ("Wait! You're saying that some of us are others?" a featured extra spouts, in what is likely to be the most unintentionally amusing line of the year.).
When news arrives that the base is under attack, the children are loaded onto buses to be taken to safety first. But Sammy forgets his Teddy Bear, so his dutiful older sister must go retrieve it. But of course, the buses leave without her, so when the adults are all gone, she must make it on her own.
From here, we follow dual storylines as Cassie tries to make it to her brother, meeting a mysterious yet ruggedly handsome young stranger (surprise) along the way, and her brother ends up training to be a soldier alongside her secret crush the football player (played by Jurassic World's Nick Robinson). The two plotlines compete to see which one can be more predictable and insipid, but Cassie's plot wins out in the end, which is an impressive accomplishment considering the Blackhawk Down Goes To Middle School sequence. I find it both fascinating and indescribably disturbing that so much of our popular fiction is based on the premise of kids being handed a gun and made into soldiers, forced to grow up immediately as they face kill or be killed situations, and yet no one bothers to see Beasts of No Nation, the most shameful Oscar snub of 2015. Is anyone else bothered by the fact that children being forced to kill is endlessly interesting to us as a fictional "what if?" science fiction scenario as long as they are white and American, but if they are not, and it's happening right now, nobody cares??? If I'm really the only one, then to quote Lucy Van Pelt, "Stop the world, I want to get off."
But back to the topic at hand: this particular movie is boring, poorly paced, and woefully predictable. The largely capable cast does their best with the material, but the immensely talented Moretz, who has given truly great performances in films ranging from Hugo to Kick Ass to The Equalizer that the fact that she could and should be doing better seems evident even to her, and her performance seems half hearted. Robinson fares much better, and provides the only moments of the film where I started to care about any of these characters as if they were people. As usual, Liev Schreiber is wasted in a thankless role, and Mario Bello seems to be going for "first Razzie candidate of the year" in a small role as a Southern Fried Military woman.
In the end, this isn't quite bad enough to be interesting as a failure, but it's nowhere near good enough for any complimentary word higher than "watchable." If it reaches an audience, it will only be further testament to how badly the long underrepresented female young adult audience wants movies aimed at them, and to our responsibility to make better ones so that they we make sure that they are truly being represented and not just exploited with this new pop culture trend.
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