Bring on the 6th to end it

The ludicrous use of teen fiction in The 5th Wave hinges on a twist. It comes late – near the end as most do. Before, audiences are asked to question 5th Wave’s logic. Awash in anti-government paranoia, some Body Snatcher mythos, and high school hormones, the film acts as a desperate demographic catch-all.

Time spent on 5th Wave does not result in a resolution. Teen fiction comes in no less than three parts nowadays, ample time for box office penetration. This one leads with Chloe Grace Moretz. Led away from her self-defense capabilities in Kick-Ass, here she becomes an average kid. Her instincts erode when she meets a shirtless, muscular guy, making her less Catniss Everdeen than helpless feminine trope.

Effects and action are front-loaded. There are tidal waves and earthquakes, the images required by alien invasion tales when at this budgetary level. 5th Wave moves quick. Aliens appear, hauntingly, then disaster happens. After a few rounds of visual effects, it’s over. 5th Wave settles, first into an incomplete family drama, and second a story of child soldiers. A modern day Ender’s Game is then in reach, but without any subtext.

Moretz’s Cassie Sullivan struggles at first. Aliens wiped out technology. Nothing electronic works, yet she totes a smart phone in her cramped backpack – in case Instagram comes back online or something. She adjusts though. Most of the world seems to.

While the film’s language states kids and teens are, “easily manipulated,” adults appear impossibly clueless. It’s a decades old trope – The Blob pit the younger generation against the extraterrestrial when adults didn’t believe – yet a camp of older survivalists championing the arrival of military forces without question is too absurd. It’s more so in this current political climate.

For closure, 5th Wave drops in coincidence, child soldiers, and overdue explosions. Overdue in the sense 5th Wave meanders around an eye-rolling romance and training montages. A panicked world exists, worried over an additional cataclysm brought on by “The Others,” but appears to spend weeks without any forward action. Again, 5th Wave’s twist explains much, yet the preceding content is mired in obtuse storytelling. The film becomes a plot hole until its not. By then, pandering allegories for humanity’s goodness and empathy are destroyed by the idiocy which came before.

The 5th Wave Blu-ray screen shot 5

Video

Digitally lensed, 5th Wave comes to Blu-ray in an uneven presentation. Sony’s encode appears fine. Bitrates are high and images are (mostly) artifact-free. That leaves the source which often dips in available resolution. This sours scenes in forests where definition drifts away. At distance, fidelity becomes sloppy, even filtered.

High-end details are notable. Appreciate those close-ups for what they show, flush with information and clarity where possible. A chunk of 5th Wave takes place at night, relying on black levels to show off. They work, although a fight sequence under moonlight becomes so dark, those watching in brighter conditions may not see anything.

Color grading leans warm initially, then chilled for the second half. Blues take the detail with them. The glossy appearance overrides the cleanly textured images which came prior. It’s harder to find high-frequency material in the back half.

Audio

While this DTS-HD track exudes tremendous power in the early going – a plane crash, earthquake, and tidal wave – aside from two explosions, this mix has little push afterward. Those key disaster sequences feel strong. Their LFE presence is mammoth, especially the earthquake.

What follows becomes pedestrian. Rear speaker use sounds timid. Stereos handle bunches of sound while surrounds go ignored. Placement feels restricted, as if those front-to-back tracking moments need to be accentuated. They are, in a sense, if only because they’re not being utilized elsewhere. A late shoot-out serves as an aural snapshot. Guns fire from the center, a few pass through the stereos. Bullet impacts piercing the rears, even as the squad takes cover in a bus, can be counted individually – on one hand.

Extras

Director J Blakeson and Chloe Grace Moretz pop in for commentary, beginning this bonus set. Eleven deleted scenes run 25-minutes, crucial considering a character meets their fate in one of them. The short gag reel has enough flubs and goofing off to be enjoyable for three minutes.

Inside the 5th Wave signals the featurette end of the disc, this one spending 14-minutes to recount plot and characters. Training Squad 53 details stunts and choreography. The best bonus is Sammy on the Set where the cast’s youngest actor asks people what they do on set. He’s inquisitive and this makes a great beginners primer for the target audience. Creating a New World pokes in on the effects side, but six minutes is too short. A survival guide is no such thing at two minutes.

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Summary

Messy and ill-formed, 5th Wave relies on a late plot twist but by then the audience will be lost as to why things are happening as they are.

Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.