I didn’t have high hopes for The 5th Wave going into it. It looked like a Hunger Games rip-off, with your requisite YA dystopia and obligatory love triangle, and I was preparing myself for the worst. But then the movie began and though The 5th Wave is not a good movie, it’s so fucking DARK and BIZARRE that I kind of came around to it, in the end. I don’t recommend spending your money on it, but should you catch it on cable or Netflix someday, it’s worth watching as an artifact of insanity. It’s the craziest of the YA dystopia movies by far, taking the premise of “child murder as entertainment” to new, un-dreamed-of heights.
Chloe Grace Moretz stars as Cassie, a normal American high school student in with a normal, middle-American life who also straight up murders people. The movie opens with Cassie point-blank murdering a dude. No introduction, no warm-up, no preface, just right to the part where the pretty blonde heroine of our tale MURDERS A GUY. It’s a bold opening, to be sure.
We then back track to the “last normal day” of Cassie’s life as a high school student in Ohio before aliens, called “The Others”, invade Earth and systematically begin destroying it. The first thirty minutes or so of The 5th Wave are actually pretty solid, as The Others lay waste to the planet through “waves” of destruction, such as an EMP that blows out all our electronics, then massively destructive earthquakes and tsunamis that wipe out most everyone living along the coasts. A virulent avian flu is next, and at this point, The 5th Wave is really hammering home the point that everyone you know and love will die.
And then it goes completely off the rails. The movie splits into a dual narrative, on one hand following Cassie’s desperate, murder-strewn fight for survival in the wilderness, and on the other we follow Trout Pout—he has a name, but it’s too stupid to remember—a high school football star turned death squad captain. In her previous life, Cassie had a crush on Trout Pout, but now she believes him dead. He isn’t though. Instead he’s part of a group of child soldiers trained to be death squads exterminating Others who are now hiding in human hosts. It’s both the dumbest fucking thing you’ve ever heard, and also, HOLY SHIT IS IT DARK. It’s WAY darker than Ender’s Game, which it is blatantly ripping off.
Trout Pout is played by Jurassic World’s Nick Robinson, and he is exactly the kind of young actor I imagine has a legion of female tweener fans. I tried to imagine giddy tweens coping with the unrelentingly bleak dismantling of humanity in this movie and my head exploded. There’s been a strain of darkness in young adult entertainment for the last decade, but The 5th Wave combines that fatalistic outlook with batshit crazy logic for a movie that simultaneously makes no sense and yet will instill in you the deep and abiding knowledge that your parents will die, your friends will die, and you will die.
The 5th Wave is the craziest fucking movie. It’s terrible, don’t get me wrong, but I’m actually impressed with how fucking BONKERS it is. It’s like someone took the grim fatalism of The Walking Dead and combined it with teen romance and then added a healthy side of CHILD MURDER. I haven’t even gotten to the other guy in Cassie’s love triangle, but honestly, even though he’s objectively more badass than Trout Pout—and also benefits from not having a stupid ass nickname—he doesn’t make much of an impression. I was too hung up on the part where Trout Pout was LEADING A DEATH SQUAD. These are the heroes of your story, 5th Wave: A girl who murders people and the captain of a death squad. I almost hope this movie does well enough to justify a sequel, because I sort of want to know just how fucking bananas this franchise can get.