The 5th Wave

Year: 2016
Studio: Columbia
Director: J Blakeson
Writer: Susannah Grant/Akiva Goldsman/Jeff Pinkner/Rick Yancey
Cast: Chloë Grace Moretz, Nick Robinson, Tony Revolori, Ron Livingston

What kind of hellfire hath The Hunger Games wrought on cinema? The kind that convinces a studio there's a market for this kind of thing, that's what – where teenagers falling in love from TV soaps are mashed up with huge CGI effects of aliens, monsters, zombies or any other movie-friendly visual antagonist and someone thinks it's a script.

That might have sounded harsher than intended – there's nothing wrong with The Fifth Wave from a creative perspective (apart from the fact that it exists and we've seen it a hundred times), and if you haven't seen Allegiant, The Maze Runner or all the other Hunger Games rip-offs there might be enough here for you to enjoy.

Part of the problem is that Chloe Grace Moretz, while cute and earnest as heroine Cassie, doesn't quite have the chops to carry a huge sci-fi blockbuster. As an actress she's just a bit too twee and her character – concerned as much with trying to find a boy with buff abs to kiss – is badly out of place among the mecha-military backdrop.

As Cassie and her family and friends go about their daily lives in Middle America, a huge spaceship arrives in orbit around the Earth. The creatures that inhabit it will attempt to wipe humanity out in five waves that range from flooding the coastlines with the oceans to releasing a super-virus to picking the surviving humans off with individual soldiers.

When Cassie, her little brother and their Dad (Ron Livingston) escape to an encampment of survivors it seems like their prayers are answered when the army rolls in, promising rescue. But what they're actually doing is separating the kids from the adults to train them to be soldiers in the fight against the aliens, a fate Cassie's former high school crush Ben (Nick Robinson) faces.

As Cassie stalks around the forest trying to stay out of the aliens' way thanks to said buff abs boy – determined to find the little brother she's been separated from – Ben is installed in a squad of teenagers learning to be military grunts to lead the attack.

Like a lot of films in the genre, it blows its CGI destruction budget early simply because of the structure, after which there's just not a lot else to look at. The plot is all over the place as it follows the adventures of what feels like too many story threads and subplots, and for it all to be propped up by another teen love triangle feels forced, out of place and kind of stupid.

It's a weird and simultaneously bland concoction of Twilight-esuqe teen angst, the quasi-military machismo of a war movie (but with kids), and an effects company sizzle reel of an alien invasion blockbuster, and it all adds up to nothing much.

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