(On Cable TV, September 2016) To its credit, The 5th Wave begins reasonably well, with a first few minutes seemingly going past the usual teenage dystopian tropes in order to land in more serious territory than usual for the genre. But once that introduction concludes, the subgenre’s clichés take over. The film gets dumber, senseless and clichéd at once. Big revelations can be seen coming minutes in advance and there’s little here to warm up savvy viewers who have already seen everything before. Acting-wise, Dakota Fanning gets the heavy lifting of the main role, but Maika Monroe comes in and steals a few scenes. There are a few nice moments of devastation early on, but there’s no denying that The 5th Wave is a movie coming out five or two years too late, after the alien-invasion panic of 2010 or the teenage-dystopia craze of 2014. But so it goes when a sub-genre’s bubble pops: there are always going to be movies caught in the aftermath. I’m not feeling too bad about this trilogy never achieving its second and third instalments—a quick look at Wikipedia’s plot summary of the follow-up novels quickly shows how insane, rote and depressing the series becomes over time. While everyone should congratulate themselves on killing off the teenage dystopian trend, it’s an end that couldn’t come fast enough to prevent the very disappointing The 5th Wave. But let’s not worry: no-one will remember this film in five years, except as part of an actor’s filmography.
(In theaters, February 2009) I wasn’t expecting much from this teen action thriller: Psychic powers are a bit lame in the SF field, and the first few minutes are so clumsy that it’s a wonder when the film does improve later on. But thanks to a few good characters, plot twists and clever sequences, Push manages to end up on an up note. No, the plot doesn’t make sense when you consider the knowledge that a non-precog character should or should not have had when writing a certain set of letters. But it hardly matters when the film rushes straight-ahead into the suspense and action sequences. It could have been considerably better, mind you: The direction is harsh and chaotic, the script is a bit too bloodthirsty and the art direction sees the Hong Kong location as an excuse to be as garish as it can be. But the same Hong Kong location makes up for spectacular backdrops, exotic location and an interesting Asian cast. In some ways, this is this year’s Jumper, what with young psychic people fighting against shadowy organizations in exotic locales. But in other ways it’s quite a bit better as long as you get past the film’s various annoyances and flawed direction. The ending blatantly leads to a follow-up: maybe, if there’s a sequel, it will be a bit better.
(Second Viewing, on DVD, May 2011) I think I like the movie a bit more upon a re-view: The script has moments of invention, Paul McGuigan’s direction is energetic, the actors bring something extra to the film (with special mentions of Dakota Fanning, Chris Evans and Djimon Hounsou’s work) and Hong Kong makes for a great location. Too bad the DVD isn’t anything special: The commentary (featuring McGuigan, Fanning and Evans) is about shooting experiences and them trying to understand the script. Of the handful of deleted scenes, one one actually brings something new. Finally, the only special feature is an obnoxious “Science behind the fiction” piece that relies on a single biased talking head to try to make viewers believe in psi powers. It’s disappointing when perfectly good unpretentious SF is ruined by those who take it too seriously.