Combustible Celluloid
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With: Chloe Grace Moretz, Nick Robinson, Ron Livingston, Maggie Siff, Alex Roe, Maria Bello, Maika Monroe, Zackary Arthur, Liev Schreiber, Tony Revolori, Talitha Bateman, Nadji Jeter, Alex MacNicoll
Written by: Susannah Grant, Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner, based on a novel by Rick Yancey
Directed by: J Blakeson
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence and destruction, some sci-fi thematic elements, language and brief teen partying
Running Time: 112
Date: 01/22/2016

The 5th Wave (2016)

1 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

'Wave' Goodbye

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The makers of the young adult fantasy The 5th Wave, opening today in Bay Area theaters, must have decided to aim their movie low, at teens who have never seen any other movies. This is clear because every plot turn and every line of dialogue has been borrowed from somewhere else, and everything is utterly, totally predictable.

But, further, they decided to aim the movie at those few teens that have never seen any other young adult fantasies. The movie boldly steals material from, but does not stop at, the Twilight, Hunger Games, and Divergent franchises. So, the movie assumes either that its viewers are totally uneducated, or that they simply do not care. We're off to a swell start.

In the movie, unseen aliens have taken over the earth, coming in five "waves." The first is an electromagnetic pulse that knocks out all power. The second is CGI earthquakes and floods. The third is a deadly disease. The fourth is that the aliens can disguise themselves as humans (a neat trick to save money on alien makeup and FX), even though it's really not difficult to discern who is who. The fifth is the "surprise," which is not much of one.

Our plucky heroine is Cassie Sullivan (Chloƫ Grace Moretz), who must get to a military base to rescue her younger brother (Zackary Arthur) before he and her high school crush Ben (Nick Robinson) go off to battle. She's helped by a handsome, moody fellow (Alex Roe) with a few days' chin scruff who is nice enough to occasionally remove his shirt. Now she has two men competing for her affections! Alas!

A few grownups are around, played by the likes of Ron Livingston, Liev Schreiber, and Maria Bello, who are probably wishing they had something better to say than the dialogue that the ever-present Akiva Goldsman (the Michael Bay of screenwriters) has given them. Goldsman, along with Susannah Grant and Jeff Pinkner, adapted the young adult novel by Rick Yancey. And, heaven help us, it's the first of a trilogy.

As The 5th Wave slogs through its plot, it ignores anything ironic or intelligent that may come up, and simply takes all the ridiculousness seriously. There's nothing said about children with guns, or the nature of invasion. It's just... taken seriously. Once, teens could go to movies about teens and have fun. Now it's all agony and suffering. "When you're a teenager, everything is the end of the world," Cassie says early on. If that's true, then teens don't need any help from this movie.

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