The 5th Wave: To See or Not To See?

Tomorrow evening, thousands of teens across the country will be lining up for their chance to see The 5th Wave, the first installment in a science fiction trilogy based on the popular young adult novel of the same name. The movie tells the story of Cassie Sullivan, a teen heroine played by Chloë Grace Moretz, who is trying to save her brother in the face of an alien invasion. Critics and fans have already compared the movie to other young adult trilogies over the past few years, including TwilightThe Hunger Games and Divergent. Just as those series focused on traditional tropes of science fiction, such as vampires and people with superpowers, The 5th Wave centers on aliens. And just as those films featured rising young actresses playing teenage girls trying to save the world from ultimate doom, The 5th Wave does so with Moretz. Based on that description alone, it doesn't sound like a film Penn students would necessarily be queuing up to see.

Yet Rick Yancey, the author of the trilogy, begs to differ. Several have noted that despite the typical young adult characteristics, the movie actually appeals to a wide audience for its lessons and commentary on human nature. Yancey agrees, arguing that the movie speaks to college students specifically. “The book is based on universal themes regardless of your age,” Yancey told Street. “College is that time in your life where you really have your first opportunity to figure out who you are...that’s exactly what this story is about. With the journey that Cassie takes and the journey that she has to go through to move from her childhood to young adulthood, there are definitely some parallels there.”

According to Yancey, the movie’s central themes align with those in stories that audiences generally flock to. Beneath the movie’s dramatic disasters, such as monstrous tsunamis and infectious bird excrement, lies a story about how people behave in extremity, a plot that always generates debate and discussion. “What really sets this story apart at the heart of it is the characters and what drives them,” Yancey said. “They really are just ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. That’s the kind of story I love to read and see on film.”

At the end of the day, there are perks to sitting in the audience of a commercial, Hollywood movie like this one. The special effects are sparkly, the drama is juicy and the actors impossible not to encourage. Despite all the clichés that come with The 5th Wave, there’s no denying it’s going to be a great film to watch while enjoying a bag of popcorn and escaping Locust Walk for an hour or two. But whether or not it’s a film that sparks a conversation about the human condition? That's for you to decide.


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