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Posts Tagged ‘The 5th Wave’

Have you ever wondered what Tobey Maguire has been up to since the end of his days as the Spider-Man-before-last? Me neither, but apparently he has become a movie producer and he has a project out at the moment: a YA SF novel adaptation entitled TheĀ 5th Wave, directed by Jonathan Blakeson. I am usually a bit wary of this sort of thing, but then I recalled how genuinely accomplished some other films of this ilk turned out to be and decided to give it a go. Plus we were having the plumbing done and I was under instructions to stay out of the house until tea-timeĀ that day.

The-5th-Wave-Poster-2

So it was that, in time honoured style, I turned up to one of the very last showings of The 5th Wave in Oxford, which possibly makes reviewing it a bit unnecessary. But what can I say, it’s pathological. The film opens with Cassie Sullivan (Chloe Grace Moretz), one of your feisty young teenage girl heroines, making her way through a discreetly post-apocalyptic landscape. It quickly becomes apparent that events have forced her to adopt a ferocious, kill-first-ask-questions-later approach to life.

But how has such a state of things come to pass? I probably don’t hear you cry. Well, anyway, the film jumps back and explains anyway. Cassie is just an ordinary all-American girl until the day that a mysterious giant object appears in the sky, circling the globe and refusing to respond to Terran communications. The visitors are quickly christened, rather unimaginatively, the Others, and the cast work very hard to pronounce the capital letters. It transpires the Others are up to no good and have availed themselves of the Bumper Book of Apocalyptic Cliches, which they go through at a fair old clip. First of all they switch off all the electricity (including all the teen characters’ smartphones: it really is the end of the world as we know it), then they manage to contrive worldwide floods and tsunamis. (‘I can’t imagine what it was like on the coast,’ says Cassie via the magic of voice-over, but luckily the viewers don’t have to try, as this is exactly sort of set-piece VFX sequence which is the meat and drink of a genre movie nowadays.) Next is souped-up bird flu.

Well, at this point the survivors pitch up in refugee camps, where things appear to take a turn for the better when the US Army turns up under the command of Colonel Vosch (Liev Schreiber). However, Vosch has grim news of a fourth wave of alien activity – the Others have taken human form and are infiltrating the survivor enclaves. To this end Vosch is under orders to take all the children into protective custody, youngsters being easier to screen for alien-ness. Needless to say this proves controversial and in the ensuing ructions Cassie finds herself cut off from her little brother and ultimately left alone in the wilderness…

From this point the story cuts back and forth between Cassie’s various travails (wandering cross-country, getting into scrapes, being rescued by a mysterious hunky stranger played by Alex Roe – there is inevitably some coy sexual tension to be dealt with) and the doings of the kids taken in by Vosch and his men. The kids are basically recruited as child soldiers and prepared to be sent off to fight the apparently-imminent fifth wave of alien beastliness…

Okay, so let me think about this. We’ve got a tough but caring young female lead, played by a notably capable young actress, who is frequently seen yomping through the woods carrying a deadly weapon she is happy to use. We’ve got the younger relative she is the selfless protector of. We’ve got a couple of guys, one very rugged, one more non-threatening, both of whom have a bit of a thing for her. We’ve got a dash of intellectual strong meat (the child soldier stuff). And we’ve got an absolute cartload of genre tropes. What does all this remind me of…?

It would be great to be able to review The 5th Wave without making some kind of reference to The Hunger Games, but at this moment in time it is far beyond my ability. Anyway, the game the producers of this movie are playing is very obvious to anyone keeping up with modern cinema trends: they’re gunning for the same huge audience the quartet of Suzanne Collins-derived films managed to tap into.

The 5th Wave‘s fairly modest take to date seems to indicate they haven’t really managed it, and I would cautiously suggest this is because the film is – how can I put this with a sufficient degree of precision? – lousy. The opening sequence is effective enough, but once the story proper gets underway, a ripe smell rapidly begins to permeate proceedings. This is one of the tritest apocalypses I can recall seeing, with most of the adult characters being shuffled off-screen with almost unseemly haste, while the collapse of communications and transport systems doesn’t appear to interfere with Moretz’s ability to find hair care products. The whole thing is shot in such a blandly good-looking style that even the piles of corpses which occasionally pop up don’t have much impact.

Beneath the affectless surface lurks a script in which lines such as ‘Let the weight of our hope drive you forward!’ qualifies as inspirational rhetoric rather than a garbled mixed metaphor. And they really should have considered renaming the bad guys: ‘I’m not an Other!’ cries one outraged character during a key scene. ‘Not another what…?’ I thought, before I realised what he meant. Later on there is a scene with one character declaring their love for another which is, quite simply, shockingly hackneyed, to the point where one feels embarrassed for the actors and oneself while watching it. None of it feels like it really means anything, it’s just a collection of stuff bolted together for its own sake – it uses a bunch of SF tropes but never feels like actual SF, somehow (and I suppose the absence of actual aliens helps keep the budget down). People run around and stuff blows up but you’re never in danger of caring about any of it.

The problems run deeper, especially when it comes to all the stuff about child soldiers. The film’s handling of this topic is grotesque, with none of the thoughtfulness and intelligence of Ender’s Game (I’m aware that saying nice things about Ender’s Game probably makes me an insane homophobe in some people’s eyes). Either the film is trying to make a point about child soldiers in the real world but doing it with great crassness and a total lack of subtlety, or it’s just doing a story about child soldiers, with a stunning lack of appreciation of how inappropriate this is. Either way, I found it rather repulsive (which, ironically enough, pretty much describes my dad’s reaction to The Hunger Games, a film which I find mostly commendable).

This is grim stuff, my friends, grim, grim. I’m not sure that Chloe Grace Moretz is quite in the same league as Jennifer Lawrence, but she is still a performer with talent and presence, none of which really gets anything like the outlet it deserves in this load of old nonsense. She’s still better than the other junior members of the cast, who are as flat and mechanical as their characters, and most of the senior ones, too. Maria Bello has fun going over the top as a drill sergeant, while challenging Moretz for the title of best thing in a really bad movie is Liev Schreiber, who at least has the charisma to rise above.

We are threatened with at least two more instalments of this faintly unsavoury and distinctly unoriginal saga – possibly more, if the SOP of these series is followed and the final film is hacked in half to maximise the revenue stream. I very rarely feel guilty about going to the cinema but I’m fully aware that by paying to see The 5th Wave I’ve only made the appearance of a follow-up more likely. I feel really bad about this. Don’t make my mistake.

 

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