The first chapter in a book-to-film young adult franchise has to balance telling a complete story with setting the stage for future entries. The 5th Wave is the latest to attempt that challenge, but it never finds its footing – the story is plodding, anti-climactic, and never gives any sense of the world needed for emotional investment in future chapters.
Chloë Grace Moretz is Cassie, a strong, forthright young woman… except when cute boys are around, when she goes weak at the knees. As aliens invade Earth, she gets separated from her brother, and spends the rest of the film trying to get back to him as military forces begin drafting children and young adults into service to fight back.
Narrative problems abound in The 5th Wave. Characters withhold information for no other reason than dramatic flair. One minute Cassie is reluctantly holding her first gun, next she’s storming empty premises with an assault rifle. It squeezes too much into its 112 minutes, which are dominated by wall-to-wall clichés – a love triangle, a training montage, a fist-pumping speech from Liev Schreiber. The 5th Wave brings nothing new to the table, and doesn’t even have the decency to look good doing it.