Review: The 5th Wave

chloe-grace-moretz-the-5th-wave-poster-01Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Director: J Blakeson
Writers: Susannah Grant,  Akiva Goldsman, & Jeff Pinkner
Stars: Chloë Grace Moretz, Nick Robinson, Zackary Arthur, Liev Schreiber, Alex Roe
Genre: Science-Fiction
Rating: PG-13
To be totally honest, I actually despise the book this movie is based on. Contrary to my friend’s warnings, I decided to read the novel before viewing the film. The novel has an overabundance of profanity, Cassie’s mind is constantly in the gutter, the point of view switches are confusing … I could go on and on. This was a pity, considering the plot had so much potential (and the book trailer was amazing). That friend and I saw the film together in theaters and were pleasantly surprised.


Cassie is one of the remaining humans left from the alien apocalypse. The Others have strategically wiped out most of the human race using four waves: electromagnetic pulses, earth quakes, disease, and Others hiding among Earth’s population. As the 5th Wave is upon the planet, our protagonist searches desperately for her little brother, her only remaining family, while struggling to avoid extinction.
Meanwhile, Zombie aka Ben Parish has been assimilated into the army with the promise that he and the other recruits will help save humanity. But with the Others possessing human bodies, who can be trusted?


Content Guide

Violence/Scary Images: Since this is the human race being annihilated there are many chilling scenes of natural disasters and disease obliterating humanity. This even bothered me a bit as an adult, so I can imagine this element being frightening for younger viewers. Characters are shot and stabbed. The camera does get up close when one character is shot in the leg and another character has to stitch her up.
Language/Crude Humor: Though not frequent there is some swearing including sh**, h***, Jesus, Christ, and one f-bomb. This only occurs when Cassie is hurt, extremely scared, and in some intense battle sequences as opposed to the book where it happened on almost every freaking page. Some guys make a few sexist jokes–before the girl they made the jokes about gives the leader a sound hit in the nose.
Spiritual Content: There may have been some references to the Biblical apocalypse.
Sexual Content: There is one sex scene. Nothing explicit, but it happened. Some characters kiss, and Cassie’s friend texts her about “end of the world sex.”
Drug/Alcohol Reference: Cassie and a few of her friends underage drink at a party. Some other alcohol may have been consumed at a few points.
Other Negative Content: None of note.
Positive Content: Cassie’s love for her family is very admirable, and she is fiercely determined to rescue Sammy. The movie also wrestles with the question, What is humanity? When most of what makes a human a human is gone, what does it all boil down to? What separates a human from an alien? The film tackles a lot about the sins of humans and also the strengths of humans. It’s a good call to discussion.



I am normally a fan of the book over the movie, but in this case the movie saved the book. The execution of the story in the novel was poor and this disappointed me greatly, because I was looking forward to a cool new alien apocalypse story. The 5th Wave film basically fixed everything I despised about the book. Instead of the protagonist Cassie being a whiny, idiotic, potty-mouthed, and crude, she is far more determined, loyal, and believable. Chloë Grace Moretz far improved this character, and she did a fair amount of good acting. You feel more for her, because of how they fixed the non-linear storytelling in the book.
In the novel, the story switches from Cassie wandering in the woods and flashbacks to the alien waves aka the good stuff, which made the plot seem to unnecessarily drag out. The movie starts with the prologue like in the book, but has all of the alien destruction occur in real time making you care more about the hell Cassie and her family has gone through.  You watch the EMP taking out the power and a plane crashing to the ground. You watch a flood damage the Cassie’s city. You see Cassie bury her mother, a casualty from the Red Tsunami virus. You watch aliens in the guise of humans shred Cassie’s trust. All of these elements are chilling as you watch humanity dwindle away. It definitely hit me emotionally.
Another thing that bothered me in the book was when the point of view switched, it was hard to tell whose head you were in. Since a movie is visual, this also eliminated that problem, because I could immediately see who’s POV it’s in. The swearing and sexual jokes were dialed down a lot. I could keep going on all the things they fixed, but you get the picture.
I’ve seen a lot of people complain that the movie is cliche. Maybe it is a little, but it’s a vast improvement from the novel. The romance wasn’t the greatest, but it wasn’t as played up as in the book and becomes much more plot relevant. The movie is exciting and gripping in many sequences, and the rest of the casting was done well. Liev Schreiber’s (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) performance of Vosch was perfect. The visual effects are stunning and a bit scary, though the part with the glowing green heads reminded me of a video game sequence. The soundtrack by Henry Jackman (X-Men: First Class, Captain America: The Winter Soldier) is excellent  and perfectly suits the mood of the film.
L-r, Nick Robinson, Zackary Arthur and Chloë Grace Moretz star in Columbia Pictures' "The 5th Wave."

L-r, Nick Robinson, Zackary Arthur and Chloë Grace Moretz star in Columbia Pictures’ “The 5th Wave.”


True blue fans may a bit disappointed about the changes, but they are welcomed to me. The movie stays true to the book’s plot and smooths out many a plot hole. Though not the greatest book to screen adaption, contrary to common tendency, the 5th Wave is a drastic improvement over its novel counterpart. The screenplay mends many of the book’s flaws and delivers a satisfying post-apocalyptic alien YA film.


+ Drastic Improvement Over the Book + Decent Acting + Well-Done Visual Effects + Good Score + Fitting Cast


- Unneeded Sex Scene - Chilling Elements of the Human Race Being Destroyed May Be Disturbing to Some

The Bottom Line

Though not the greatest book to screen adaption, contrary to common tendency, the 5th Wave is a drastic improvement over its novel counterpart. The screenplay mends many of the book's flaws and delivers a satisfying post-apocalyptic alien YA film.



Victoria Grace Howell

Victoria Grace Howell is an artist and aspiring speculative fiction writer. She received Teen Writer of the Year in 2014 at the Florida Christian Writers Conference , a conference she attended since 2010, and the Believers Trust Award in 2015. When she's not writing her books or articles, she enjoys drawing her characters, playing the piano and practicing Kung Fu.

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