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Movie Review: “The 5th Wave”

Jan 212016
 By , January 21, 2016
Movie Review: "The 5th Wave"

the 5th wave

“The 5th Wave” – a film review by Gary Chew

In 1972, a Western directed by Mark Rydell hit the movie house circuit. I was doing film reviews then on television. The movie bowled me over.

John Wayne had the lead. It told the story of a tough rancher (Wayne) who has to get his cattle to market, and for some reason I don’t remember, Duke’s character can only get young fellows to help him with the herd. Dastardly cattle rustlers are on the prowl. In the process of taking Wayne’s herd, they shoot and kill the Duke! It wasn’t everyday in the early 70s you could go to a John Wayne movie and see him winding up dead in it.

the 5th waveFinally the young boys, who are coming of age and filled with revenge, gun down the bad men. I was flabbergasted by the gall of this flick’s use of revenge. In the review I said that, for me, the Wayne film was obscene.

I had rattled management’s cage with my remarks. I was accused by some viewers of saying that John Wayne’s The Cowboys was pornographic. I had preceded my on camera salvo about the outrageous bent of the picture by saying that “Beauty like obscenity is in the eye of the beholder thus, I found The Cowboys to be obscene.”

The 5th Wave doesn’t measure down to The Cowboys, but it tries. With Chloe Grace Moretz as Cassie and the direction of J Blakeson, you get a big helping of awkwardly written twists and complications about aliens attacking Earth in a series of waves. The narrative gets quickly down to having Cassie and two young hunks — one she knows from high school and another dude who just might be one of the aliens — fending off creatures from somewhere else. Of course and all the while, Cassie is desperate to rescue her little brother from the aliens who also conveniently appear as human.

the 5th waveThe aliens are indoctrinating and training the young people to be crack military troops who will finally assist the government in putting down extraterrestrial efforts to appropriate the planet … all in a kind of “H.G. Wells Gets Drafted” scenario. That’s why The 5th Wave merely comes ashore in the wake of today’s many film heroines who kick ass before asking any questions. Two nubile actors quickly come to mind in such a setting: Jennifer Lawrence (in large and successful measure) and Saoirse Ronan, recalling her energetic attempt playing the title role in Hanna, a young assassin in the woods with survival skills her father teaches her.

Thankfully, Hanna didn’t morph into a string-you-along franchise like we now have with “Katniss and Company,” etc. And I hate to add that the way The 5th Wave is brought to conclusion implies there just might be more of “Cassie Fights Aliens In Ohio.” That’s where Cassie and her family live when the first wave strikes. It comes without surprise as Cassie’s parents get taken out in the first act.

The script certainly has young demographics on its mind. Young people will likely enjoy the movie. It’s loaded with action and tension. It subtly suggests a little backseat hanky panky while routinely screaming, “Get your army on, Trooper!” The characters you care for waste many aggressors.

Another thought occurred to me while watching this picture: some really cool video games could easily be marketed for young folks so they can identify with the characters they’ve seen on the big screen in The 5th Wave. Surely, John Wayne’s family could get behind that too.

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Gary Chew was a classical music host, programmer and producer on Capital Public Radio’s KXPR 88.9FM, Sacramento for 18 years. He retired in January 2007. Read more about Gary's long and storied career here.

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