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'5th Wave' feels like postapocalyptic young adult deja vu
Chloe Grace Moretz as Cassie Sullivan and Zackary Arthur as Sam Sullivan in "The 5th Wave." - photo by Josh Terry
"THE 5th WAVE" 1 stars Chlo Grace Moretz, Zackary Arthur, Nick Robinson, Liev Schreiber, Alex Roe, Ron Livingston, Maggie Siff; PG-13 (violence and destruction, some sci-fi thematic elements, language and brief teen partying); in general release

If The 5th Wave is any indication, the well of young adult creativity is running dry.

5th Wave is the latest in an increasingly long line of young adult novel adaptations. It mines a number of familiar tropes, but combined with poor execution, the result is a recipe for disaster and not the cool postapocalyptic kind.

The films title refers to a step-by-step invasion of Earth by an alien race called The Others. In the 1st Wave, an electromagnetic pulse knocks out the power. The 2nd Wave is literal, as massive earthquakes flood coastal cities with tidal waves. The 3rd Wave is a modified version of the avian flu that kills the majority of the survivors, and the story settles in around the 4th Wave, as The Others have begun to infiltrate survivor camps in human form.

Sadly, the lack of creativity applied to the invaders names extends elsewhere. Chlo Grace Moretz plays Cassie Sullivan, a tough teen who finds herself a key player in the movie's version of a postapocalyptic dystopia. When she gets separated from her young brother Sam (Zackary Arthur) in a refugee camp, the films primary plot becomes centered on her quest to find him.

Unfortunately, Sam has been drafted by whats left of the American military into a special program that trains kids to fight The Others (the 5th Wave will reportedly be a ground invasion). The good news is that Sam is placed in a squad with Ben (Nick Robinson), a boy Cassie was just about to start dating when the world ended. The bad news is that the program led by Liev Schreiber as Colonel Vosch becomes more dubious as it goes along.

All the common elements from other young-adult franchises such as "The Hunger Games" and "Divergent" are here. Youve got the spunky female lead, the postapocalyptic dystopia and a fight for the future led by teenagers. Apparently, the young-adult rulebook was written by the same person who decided back in the 1960s that you cant trust anyone over 30.

A good movie can make the familiar feel fresh, but 5th Wave falls apart right about the same time it builds some momentum. The first two-thirds of the film takes its time, alternating training scenes at the military base with Cassies journey to find it (a journey that is delayed when she meets another boy Evan, played by Alex Roe along the way). Then director J Blakeson uses a couple of exposition-heavy speeches to usher in a dramatic conclusion that takes the story off the rails completely and leaves us with even more clichs.

For our 112 minutes of trouble, we have another boy-toy love triangle and an open ending custom-made for an unearned sequel.

If we do get a sequel, we will no doubt be gifted with more questions such as, If The Others just wanted to rid the Earth of humans and take it for themselves, couldnt they come up with a much less complicated way of doing it?

Asking questions like that in movies like this is just a bad idea.

Overall, 5th Wave just feels like a film built out of used ideas and third-round draft choices. Too many familiar clichs combined with so-so effects and some watered-down philosophy has raised a red flag on the young adult sci-fi genre. If we cant get more life into these movies, they might be looking at an apocalypse of their own.

"The 5th Wave" is rated PG-13 for violence and destruction, some sci-fi thematic elements, language and brief teen partying; running time: 112 minutes.
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