Cassie Sullivan (Chloë Grace Moretz) runs through the forest, automatic rifle in hand, until she reaches an abandoned convenience store and slips in, looking for food. As she scans the shelves for what meagre pickings may be left, she hears a plaintive voice from a back room and gingerly makes her way to the door, then looks inside where she sees a man collapsed in a corner who is pointing a pistol at her. There is a brief standoff then he lowers the gun, claiming to be injured, though his other hand is still in his jacket and as he takes it out Cassie notices a glint of metal and opens fire - but it was only the man's silver cross he was holding. This is where she has got to, she muses soberly, the alien invasion has made her paranoid and murderous...
When The 5th Wave failed to make a huge impact at the box office it spawned a bunch of naysayers telling us the young adult book adaptations were coming to an end as they were not making the profits they used to. However, while this was not a blockbuster, it did okay, mostly because the studio had produced it relatively cheaply, though possibly not cheaply enough as yet again with these sorts of franchises the question of whether they would make a sequel was looming when there didn't appear to be much of an appetite for it. That was noticeable especially among the genre's harshest critics: the teens who had enjoyed the source material and were dismayed at the changes made.
Obviously when adapting a novel there were always going to be alterations, yet time and again those short cuts and outright differences were proving a thorn in the side of the fans of such material. The Hunger Games had managed to largely escape that thanks to sticking pretty closely to what happened on the page, but it seemed every other example in the field was annoying someone for their lack of faith to the original, which again placed a question mark over what audiences were prepared to tolerate. That was particularly pressing when those who had not read the books would be wondering what the big deal was with these efforts and why they all seemed to dully progress on the same lines.
You could see the attraction on a basic level, as the young readers enjoyed experiencing vicariously the adventures of someone around their age who was resourceful enough to pick their way through something as dramatic as a global catastrophe, even if it had you wondering why there was such popularity in entertainment that saw the world they were growing up into falling down around their ears. Was it a general dissatisfaction with the adult arena they were expected to enter and a wish to see it torn up so they could start over again, or was it simply because the higher the stakes (the end of the world being as high as we could get on this planet) then the more invested in the plot and characters they could become? If it was the latter, you could ponder where there was to possibly go from there.
In this case, it would appear the creators (including Oscar winner Akiva Goldsman on screenwriting duties) preferred to iron out any kinks from the source to create a work that adhered very much to the conventions, some would say clichés, of what had gone before. Moretz got to practice her incredulous look at each fresh indignity visited on Cassie, then was set up for a love triangle in Hunger Games or Twilight fashion the film ran out of time to make anything of, as meanwhile the broken backed plot got distracted by her high school crush Ben (Nick Robinson) who was entrenched in the soldier training to battle the alien menace that had unleashed various waves of attack. But what was the fifth wave? The suspicion of adults was apparently more valid than the suspicion of genocidal space monsters, but don't go looking for anything but the most superficial of messages here, and even the action sequences were piecemeal, concentrating on thrifty to shoot conversations, many set outdoors to save on building sets. It wasn't terrible, it was just empty. Music by Henry Jackman.