The 5th Wave: The Synthetic Invasion


I haven’t seen an alien invasion film this bad since Signs. During the 1st wave motherships suddenly appear in the skies above major cities and most people just keep living their day-to-day lives, attending work and school like it never happened. No military attacks or any displays of action against the unwanted intruders were made. The lack of shock and awe makes the characters feel plastic and unbelievable.  An EMP (electromagnetic pulse) ends communications and everything shuts down, which is to be expected in an invasion, but as a commercial plane fell from the sky I couldn’t help but to think, that if aliens were actually hovering over our cities, there wouldn’t be any planes allowed off the ground. I guess being realistic wasn’t on the filmmaker’s agenda. The 2nd wave comes as floods begin to flow through the cities, but it’s nothing at all like any of the awesome end of times natural disaster films many of us love watching. These alien induced tsunami scenes left out some very important factors: people, reactions, chaos and destruction for starters… Everything that you and I pay to see when we watch one of these end of times invasion films, once again painting the story in a fake and unrealistic light while carelessly leaving the viewer as an observer instead of drawing us in to become emotionally involved with the story.

Crunched for time it seemed as if creators of The 5th Wave took what may have been a great story and rushed through the setup. Scenes seemed to skip through the first few waves, which I can only believe was done to save money or because it was poorly planned. There was a chance to create an emotional attachment to the characters that was missed while everyone in the film didn’t seem to be panicked at all by the events taking hold of their lives. Cassie’s mom died during the 3rd wave in which a modification of the avian flu plagued the world. The director could have taken us down a hard road, showing us the struggle of the characters trying to survive the sickness or reacting to their loss, but instead, what would have been the most interesting scenes of the film was buried with Cassie’s mother in a quick series of shots, caked over with past tense narrative commentary by the lead character, leaving the viewers (me) feeling as if there was missed opportunities for a good film to have unraveled.

Riding on the coattails of franchise films like The Hunger Games and Maze Runner, The 5th Wave crawls in their shadows with only a fifth of the energy. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love invasion films, in fact, Falling Skies and V are some of my favorite television shows. Maybe that’s why the lack of raw brutality in the film bugs me out. Some things are candy coated or not shown to protect the viewers’ senses, which is just one of many issues I have with the film. Aliens are controlling humans without a trace of being infested, so no one knows who is still human or who is being controlled. If you weren’t going to show a mutation wouldn’t you think the aliens or parasites would have earned a scene of their own, showing how this advanced takeover was possible? Not one scene was dedicated to inform us about the enemy or how they control the humans.

For the 5th wave, the film suddenly changed into a training camp for the youth in an attempt to join the teen hero bandwagon. The military is secretly the aliens and they trick the kids into hunting other humans. Meanwhile, our lead character meets and begins to fall in love with a half human, half alien man because you know, what’s a corny teen film without hopeless romance? This film is to alien invasion films what Twilight was to vampire films, all fluff and not enough. It might not sparkle in the light but it’s just as ridiculous. Personally, I would have liked for the waves to have played out in a more interesting way in which we, the audience, could have felt like we were in the film and not just outsiders looking in on an emotionless invasion tale. All in all, it felt a little too PG13 for me. This is the first alien film that I’ve seen in which there were no actual aliens in it, just humans saying they were aliens. Once again there was a great concept with horrible delivery. Instead of being gruesome and entertaining, The 5th Wave felt more like a Falling Skies spin-off that would have been canceled after it’s 5th episode. Oh, and if you noticed that I skipped the 4th wave which was the actual invasion of the aliens, so did they. There wasn’t one single scene in the film showing anything coming down from the space crafts or showing an actual invasion.  In fact, out of 112 minutes of film, I’ll go as far as saying  that there was only 5 minutes that was entertaining enough to have kept.

Budget: $38 million (The film called Altered only cost $8 million and they had an alien that was caught in a bear trap and harpooned, as well as believable characters and great dialogue.)
Until next time…

William C. Raustler