The 5th Wave Reveals Plague, Power Outage, and Aliens
Wondering if The 5th Wave holds up to the book? Our book to film columnist Spencer Wade weighs in.
The 5th Wave has joined a wave of recent dystopian novels and films that are being devoured by eager audiences. Chloe Grace Moretz plays the part of a typical teen turned freedom fighter perfectly in this J Blakeson directed film. Though the first four waves of attack have already taken place when the film starts, Ms. Moretz, in the role of Cassie, initially has a much more modest goal than saving the world – she just wants to save her brother. He has been taken by the frightening and enigmatic Colonel Vosch, played by veteran actor Liev Schreiber, to a children’s military training camp. Two potential love interests aid Cassie in her journey; Alex Roe as Evan plays the sensitive hero who rescues her after she has been shot, while Nick Robinson plays Ben, who protects Cassie’s brother at training camp.
Though they are shown only briefly in the film, each of the first four waves is devastating in its own right and helps to set up the ruthlessness of the invaders. The first wave is a major electromagnetic surge that takes out the world’s power grid. Planes and cars crash, and humans are isolated in a way they haven’t been in decades. It is a surprisingly realistic threat. A recent investigation has shown that detonating a nuclear bomb up to 250 miles above the earth’s surface would be enough to disrupt the power grid, and that Americans are alarmingly vulnerable. Nor are nuclear bombs the only threat – experts say there have been at least a dozen times where hackers had the information necessary to shut down the grid with the click of a mouse.
The second wave consists of major earthquakes and tsunamis. These are caused by the aliens dropping huge iron beams onto the Earth’s fault lines. At this point the death toll begins to rise quickly into the billions, and anyone who lives near a coastline is wiped out. This is again a wave of disaster that is not too far out of the realm of possibility in real life; fracking has caused an increase in deadly earthquakes, which could easily lead to massive tsunamis.
The third wave may be even more believable, and therefore the most terrifying. A highly contagious avian flu sweeps across the planet, killing almost everyone who contracts it. Despite attempts at quarantine, it wipes out much of the remaining human population. With a recent years-long Ebola outbreak barely suppressed in Africa, it doesn’t take much thought to imagine the devastation this could cause.
The fourth wave is the most devious. Aliens, who we learn can disguise themselves as human, come to earth and start killing people. They also kidnap all the children and bring them to militarized training camps. This is where Cassie’s brother has been taken, and this is when we learn that the children themselves are meant to become the fifth wave. They are being trained to kill anyone who is left, turning the last remaining humans against each other.
These waves are frighteningly methodical. The loss of so much human life so quickly, and the culling of any adults who survived, leaves the remaining dregs of humanity extremely vulnerable. While the film stays fairly true to the book, there are some major differences. The way the waves are presented – all at once rather than as flashbacks throughout the story – minimizes their impact. Certain characters from the Rick Yancey book are significantly altered or cut entirely, including a child named Crisco, who is an especially important omission because Cassie is indirectly responsible for his death.
In light of these changes, the resulting film is still fun to watch, but loses some of its emotional force. The high caliber of acting throughout helps grab the audience however, and the plot itself is terrifyingly entertaining. If it is surprising to anyone that a film about aliens can be so realistic, they haven’t been watching the news.
Spencer Wade is a freelance entertainment, film, and pop culture blogger. He can almost always be found with his face in a book or glued to the T.V. He lives and works in Chicago where the winters only serve to encourage this type of behavior.
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