The 5th Wave Chloë Grace Moretz, Alex Roe, Nick Robinson. Directed by J Blakeson. Rated PG-13. Opens Friday.
It’s convenient that so many young-adult sci-fi series (The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Maze Runner) feature rigidly defined combat rituals that require participation from adolescents. Even when it makes no sense at all, the alien-invasion thriller The 5th Wave (based, naturally, on the first in a series of YA novels by Rick Yancey) concocts a scenario in which young people must train for and complete a series of dangerous tasks that will both force them to grow up and pit them against actual grown-ups.
Also, there’s a love triangle. No matter how busy teenager Cassie (Chloë Grace Moretz) may be trying to defeat the aliens that have invaded Earth (after first killing off most of the human population via earthquakes and disease), that doesn’t mean she can’t take time to be torn between the affections of hunky resistance fighter Evan (Alex Roe), who rescues her after she’s been shot by a sniper, and her former high-school crush Ben (Nick Robinson), who’s been forcibly recruited by the remaining human military.
Separated from her younger brother during the post-invasion chaos, Cassie is determined to reunite with him (and also, somewhat absurdly, to give him back his lost teddy bear), but she must navigate a post-apocalyptic landscape in which aliens and humans are impossible to tell apart. The 5th Wave starts out as a rote survival narrative before taking a turn for the absurd with the romance between Cassie and Evan (who has a really obvious secret) and the aliens’ nonsensical endgame. Liev Schreiber and Maria Bello have some fun with their roles as extremely suspicious military commanders, but the teen leads are all petulant pouts and brooding stares (Cassie’s post-apocalypse hair is never less than lustrous). It all builds to a climax that takes place mostly offscreen, drawing out the story for a sequel that, thankfully, will probably never come.