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5th Wave, The

Sony Pictures // PG-13 // May 3, 2016
List Price: $45.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by John Sinnott | posted May 7, 2016 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

Hollywood tends to release movies in cycles. If a film in a certain genre or a particular style does well at the box office you can be sure that more will follow. (A good example is the 'found footage' movies that started with The Blair Witch Project.) Usually, the first film in any cycle is good, but as studios try to cash in on the trend the quality starts dipping and soon they're releasing movies that are very derivative. We've reached that low point in the YA book cycle now that started with the Twilight films. While some of the series that followed that one, Hunger Games and Insurgent for example, had a certain amount of quality to the script and production this year's film The 5th Wave seems to be copying the plot point of the films that have come before. Filled with a myriad of plot holes and some very clunky dialog and twists that are pretty obvious, the film ends up being pretty boring.

Based on the book by Rick Yancey, the movie tells the story of Cassie (Chloe Grace Moretz). She's an ordinary high school girl who has a crush on a football player and spends her tome texting her BFF until The Others arrive in a giant space ship and attack Earth. They don't invade directly with ground troops though. Instead they attack a series of 'waves' that decimates the population while minimizing the risk to the aliens. First they send an EMP that knocks out all electrical circuits and motors in the entire world. The second wave is a series of devastating earthquakes that cause tidal waves that flood the coastal cities, and that is followed up by a deadly virus that kills off even more people.

Cassie, her father, and her younger brother Sammy (Zackary Arthur) manage to survive those first three waves and find themselves in a makeshift refugee camp when soldiers arrive from an Air Force base. They announce that the children will be taken to the base first, due to lack of transportation, and that the adults will follow. Cassie and Sammy get separated, and while Sammy goes to the relative safety of the base, Cassie is accidentally left behind and sees her father and the rest of the adults killed after one of the refugees starts a fight with a soldier.

Before the carnage, it is learned that the fourth wave has started. The Others have inhabited human bodies and are out hunting the rest of the survivors. The soldiers have also learned that the titular 5th wave is about to start, and that will result in the extinction of humanity. Alone and desperate, Cassie decides to try to get to the base to be reunited with her brother while trying to avoid the alien menace that looks entirely human.

The film starts off well with a lot of promise. It opens with a scene where Cassie has to kill someone, and then she flashes back to understand just how she got to the point where she could commit murder so callously. Unfortunately it goes downhill from there. Even after seeing all of her trials and tribulations, it's hard to really feel anything for the character. While I really love end-of-the-world films, I didn't care for this one because just about everything Cassie does is wrong or ill thought out. When she sees a group of people that have been shot dead in the middle of a road, and then sees a lit cigarette near one of their hands, she does not reach the conclusion that these were recent deaths, but instead looks walks on. She is far too trusting too, at one point disarming an opponent and then giving his gun back to him once he claims to be on her side. This movie will remind you of all of the other YA novel movie adaptations that you've seen too. There's a female protagonist who is coming of age, it takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, there's a love triangle, a younger sibling sets the action in motion (ala Hunger Games), and the main character is facing insurmountable odds. Watching the movie unfold it seemed like the writers were looking to hit certain plot points that have almost become cliches at this point. "Oh, its 50 minutes into the film - a hunky guy has to do something sexy. Let's make him chop wood." There is one area that they did depart from the formula, and that wasn't for the best. Instead of making the female lead a tough character who could handle herself (like Insurgent and Hunger Games) they made Cassie rely on male teens throughout the film to rescue her. She would have been dead three or four times (depending on how you count them) if it had not been for a handsome man coming along at the right moment.

There's not a lot to recommend this film. The dialog is clunky, the plot relies on coincidence to an astonishing degree, and there are plot holes that left me scratching my head. (How did Cassie learn that the aliens can take over bodies? She wasn't around when that revelation was made but still knew about it. How did one character break into a carefully guarded base? Where did all of the explosives come from that were used at the end? Why does anyone think 7-13 year olds would make good soldiers? How does Cassie's gun get reloaded after she's seen shooting all of the bullets in her single clip?) The worst offense however is that the movie is just boring. After the first reel the pace keeps getting slower and slower and by the midway point I was hoping that it would end soon.

The Ultra HD Disc:

This UHD Combo set includes the film on a 4K disc as well as a Blu-ray (the latter of which contains the majority of the extras).


This is the first 4K release that I've been disappointed in. It's not that the 2.40:1 image was bad, it was not, but the UltraHD version didn't offer much in the way of improvement over the Blu-ray. Filmed in 2K, the image was clean and clear and there weren't any defects of note, but the same could be said of the 1080p release on the BR disc that's included. Doing some direct comparisons of several scenes, the 4k disc offered a bit more detail and was slightly more appealing, but if you played a scene for me at random and asked me which format it was, I doubt I could tell. That's because they did a very good job on the Blu-ray. I was just hoping for more from the HDR enhanced 4K disc.


The movies has a Dolby Atmos (which is Dolby TrueHD compatible) soundtrack that does the job. The action scenes (of which there are only a few) really made use of the full soundstage and had some sonic impact thanks to the good use of the subwoofer channel. Unfortunately, once the action ends the mix mainly relies on the front speakers. When Cassie was traipsing through the woods, for example, I was hoping that more use of the surround speakers but instead they are largely silent. As I mentioned, it's not a bad audio track, just not impressive.


The 4K disc includes the movie as well as a commentary track with director J Blakeson and star Chloe Grace Moret. They talk about the filming and production as well as reveal a few behind-the-scenes anecdotes. If you're a fan of the film I'm sure you'll find it more interesting than I did.

The rest of the extras are all in HD and can be found on the Blu-ray disc. They include a 15-minute, standard making-of piece, Inside The 5th Wave where the cast and crew talk about how amazing everyone was to work with and what a great film it is. The disc also contains: Sammy on the Set, where young actor Zackary Arthur talks with the crew; Training Squad 53, a 5-minute look into how the young actors were trained to be soldiers; The 5th Wave Survival Guide, 2-minutes worth of survival tips; a gag reel and several deleted scenes and a group of trailers.

Final Thoughts:

This movie based on a YA novel feels very derivative of what has come before and doesn't bring anything new to the table. Filled with plot holes, bad dialog, and poor writing, this end of the world tale is actually pretty boring. Best pass this one by. Skip it.
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