CineMarterThe 5th Wave - Invasion of the Teenage Body Snatchers, TV Pilot Edition
Directed by J Blakeson. Produced by Graham King, Tobey Maguire, Lynn Harris, and Matthew Plouffe. Written by Susannah Grant, Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner. Release date: January 22, 2016.
The 5th Wave feels like it's a the pilot episode of a television show. I don't mean that to insult TV; there's a lot of good work being done on the small screen. I mean in terms of its format, plot, and what it ultimately accomplishes. It doesn't have much of a self-contained story, and serves almost exclusively as a way to set up a franchise. The problem with that is that we're given almost no reason to care about the project and, therefore, don't have any desire to sit through any continuations. TV pilots are supposed to be good in order to hook the audience or convince a studio to order a full season. The 5th Wave wouldn't even be worth watching if it was on network TV for free.
The majority of the plot paves the way for potential future installments which may or may not ever actually happen. If you've seen the trailer - which does a better and more succinct version of setting the stage - you'd know that aliens, nicknamed "the Others," have come to Earth and have started wiping out all the pesky humans. They did so in waves: (1) electronic pulse, (2) flood, (3) virus, and (4) Invasion of the Body Snatchers. We're in the fourth wave as the film starts. Remaining humans don't know who they can trust, as the Others can infect anyone's brain and control them.
Our lead is Cassie Sullivan (Chloe Grace Moretz), a teenage girl whose father (Ron Livingston) gets killed and her brother (Zackary Arthur) gets taken by the Army, leaving her all alone in the middle of the woods. She wants to get to the Army base both for the purported safety, as well as to reunite with her brother. So, she spends the entire movie trying to do that. She eventually teams up with a farm hand named Evan (Alex Roe). It's a long, slow journey.
Meanwhile, we also get to watch Cassie's high school crush, Ben (Nick Robinson), at the Army base, leading a squadron of children, because children are now humanity's best hope at killing the Others. Why? Because the Colonel (Liev Schreiber) says so. Something about infected children being easier to detect - it doesn't matter. Ben's storyline runs similarly to Ender's Game, but without any of the in-squad politicking, interesting characters, or awesome sci-fi stuff.