The 5th Wave | adaptation review


Title: The 5th Wave
Motion Picture Rating: PG-13
Release Date: January 2016
Director: J Blakeson
Production Co.: GK Films
Runtime: 112 min

I’ve been waiting for the film to come out ever since I read the novel in early January. I know that’s not a long time to wait compared to longtime fans, but it’s been hard to contain my excitement. The movie theater near my school has $2 movie nights every Monday, so instead of going to see it when it was released, I reluctantly waited until last night.

Oh, and new year, new me — I’m going to actually structure my adaptation reviews. I did it for my book reviews, so may as well do it here, too. And even though many people already know the plot, I’d like to start with a synopsis in case someone hasn’t read the book or heard of the story, so don’t get cranky when you realize my synopsis for the film is the exact same as the one for the book. In fact, if you don’t care, just skip it. Also, if you’re interested in my book review for The 5th Wave, click here.

The Synopsis

The first wave sends our world into darkness. The second wave drowns those of us near the coasts. The third wave dispatches us in a bloody, miserable heap. The fourth wave teaches anyone left alive to trust no one. What will the fifth wave bring? What could possibly be worse than the previous waves? Cassie is on the run. She is alone and scared, but she is alive. The only thing keeping her alive is the promise she made to her younger brother, though she’s not entirely sure how to keep that promise. With no one to trust and nowhere to go that’s safe, Cassie is at a loss. Not to mention the fact that someone, or something, is hunting her every step of the way…

The Casting


I have mixed emotions on the casting of this film. Let’s start with Cassie. Chloë Grace Moretz was apparently the only actress to audition for the role of Cassie, which is strange and unbelievable to me. Rick Yancey’s novel isn’t mind-blowingly popular or anything, but you’d think there would be more than one person in the world to audition for the main character of this film. Nevertheless, I am happy with Cassie’s casting. Not only is she a good actress, but she is a huge fan of the book and loves her character, which makes for a strong bond. Ben Parish, the boy Cassie had a huge crush on when the world was still normal, is played by Nick Robinson. Nick is really cute. He also looks exactly like a younger version of my ex-boyfriend. I noticed this when I saw Robinson in Jurassic World over the summer. I think he’s a decent actor, but I just can’t get past how much he looks like my ex. He’s a cute Ben, though. Alex Roe plays Evan Walker, and though I was a little hesitant at first, after seeing the film, I am happy with that choice. I’ve never seen Roe in anything before, but he was pretty good, too. And of course they added a shirtless bathing scene for all the girls to ogle at his abs and and muscular back, so enjoy, ladies. Though I always seem to hate those  scenes… Another perfect casting choice was Liev Schreiber as Colonel Vosch. Perfect choice. I am most familiar with Schreiber as Sabertooth, of course, but he is a great actor and has appeared in many amazing films. I associate him with an asshole, so he was perfect for this role. Maika Monroe was cast as Ringer, a key character in the upcoming sequel. I was kind of surprised at how she was portrayed in the film. In the novel, she is of Asian ethnicity; in the film, she looks like a goth girl forced into boarding school. That eyeliner… Her attitude was spot-on, but I’m not sure Monroe was the correct choice. I loved Monroe in It Follows, but she’s not who I pictured to play Ringer. Another interesting casting choice: Maria Bello as Sergeant Reznik. Reznik is male in the novel and is a real hardass. He is an absolute dick and everyone hates him. In the film, Reznik is a woman and though she’s kind of a bitch, she’s nowhere near the level of scary novel-Reznik achieves. Overall, the casting was okay. Definitely could have been better, but I liked most of the choices, I think.


Warning: This section will discuss the film’s faithfulness to the novel and could contain spoilers. If you haven’t read the book, I would definitely suggest scrolling past. If you haven’t seen the film yet and you want absolutely no information on the events in the film, I would scroll past.

The film starts out very strong: my home state Ohio gets a little recognition, we get to see each wave occurring, and we get to see how Cassie ends up alone in the woods. I liked it. There were little differences that made me tick, though I’m not sure if they’ll bug anyone else. For instance, in a flashback, Cassie is remembering a party she went to. She ran into Ben on her way out and they had a conversation, meaning they knew each other well enough. In the novel, Ben has no idea who Cassie is. Cassie is just a girl crushing on Ben from the sidelines. Towards the end of the film when Cassie finds Ben alive, he immediately recognizes her by name and notes that they went to school together. This bugged me because Hollywood was obviously playing up the love triangle in the film. There is no love triangle in the book. Cassie crushes on Ben, Cassie thinks Ben is dead and falls for Evan, Cassie finds out Ben is still alive but remains in love with Evan. That’s it. In the film, Ben knows who Cassie is and seems almost interested in her by the end. That’s how I interpreted their scenes together. I didn’t like it. I don’t like the idea of insta-love, such as with Cassie and Evan, but even more than that, I hate love triangles, and there is not supposed to be one in The 5th Wave. I hope in the sequel (if they make a sequel) they squash any indication of it.

Another little difference: in the novel, when Ben and his group realized who the Army really is, Ben returns to the compound while his friends escape. He tells Vosch that his friends “went crazy” with accusations, shot Ben when he wouldn’t follow along, and that they were still out there. It seems very believable and keeps Ben on Vosch’s good side. In the film, Ben straight-up lies to Vosch and says all his friends are dead, but he escaped. Vosch obviously sees through his, tells Ben to stop lying, and Ben basically says “fuck you.” Lucky for Ben, Evan chooses that moment to strike, and Ben is saved from death. I didn’t like that. I liked that Ben was trying to stay on Vosch’s good side. That seemed more intelligent. I realize this doesn’t really change the storyline much, but like I said, the little differences get to me. Like, for instance, Cassie sees her friend Elizabeth at a quarantine site during the third wave. Did it affect the story in any way? No. But did it happen in the novel? No. So why did we need it? Also, a huge thing I hated in the film that I must tell you right now: Evan is not the one who shoots Cassie on the highway. Apparently, some other guy shoots her, and Evan immediately shoots him. I hate that. Evan shot Cassie and instead of killing her, realized he had feelings for her. That’s how it goes in the novel. I strongly dislike that they changed this.

There were differences that I was okay with, too, though. The movie was almost 2 hours long already — they had to cut stuff. I understood why, at the camp, they didn’t introduce any of the kids Cassie hung out with. In order to make sure Cassie was not on the bus nor in the cabin when the Army came, they created a much simpler reason that I thought made sense and saved a lot of time. I also liked how they tried to downplay the insta-love with Cassie and Evan. In the novel, Evan is obviously in love with Cassie right away (puke). Cassie, on the other hand, is reluctant, but eventually falls for him and his chocolate eyes while at his farmhouse. Their relationship is rocky, and sometimes she thinks she should shoot him, but nevertheless, she has feelings for him. In the film, Cassie and Evan don’t even kiss at the farmhouse. They don’t kiss until they’re on their way to rescue Sam. I liked that it seemed a little less insta-lovey and more realistic. I guess that kind of sort of makes up for the whole ‘almost love triangle’ thing.

Novel or Film?

Definitely enjoyed the novel a lot more than the film. I know this is the case 9 times out of 10, but I think it’s important to decide which we prefer: adaptation or source text. I like the novel because I think it’s important to hear Cassie’s inner monologue during such a harrowing time. For an alien invasion story, this tale is more about humans and their humanity than the aliens. It’s YA, guys — it’s not really about the action, it’s about the characters and their development. There’s not really enough action for it to be a really great sci-fi alien movie. I like the novel better. I know every adaptation must cut from the source text, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the choices they made.

My Rating

3.5 star

3 thoughts on “The 5th Wave | adaptation review

    1. I took three of my friends to see it, and they all thought it was okay, too. I think they liked it more than I did because they didn’t read it, but they kind of hated the love story.


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