This post will be full of spoilers for The 5th Wave, both the book and movie. It will also likely be of little to no interest to most people, so you’ve been warned.
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I got my copy of The 5th Wave from a book exchange a few years ago, around Christmas of 2013. I didn’t read it right away, as I hadn’t heard anything about it and was probably reading a bunch of other books at the same time (as I am wont to do), but I picked it up again a month or so ago when I’d heard it was being made into a movie.
I’ve previously written about it here, particularly how I didn’t realize it was a Young Adult work until I hit some very Young Adult portions of it. That didn’t deter me, though, as I’ve written lots of that genre before: Harry Potter, His Dark Materials, most of The Hunger Games (gotta remember to finish that one of these days), and some of the Divergent series for example. And I’ve liked them all to varying degrees. So I kept on reading, and I’m glad I did, because I ended up really liking a lot of the characters. I even picked up the second book in the series literally the day after I finished the first book, and I’m a good chunk of the way though that now too.
The last time my cousin Terry and I saw a movie (which was The Hateful Eight earlier this month) we decided to have a peek online at upcoming releases to try and schedule some further excursions into the city. I really look forward to these trips, as we get a chance to catch up, hang out, see a movie or two, and usually have a meal together, all in one day. They’re great, and whether or not the movie is any good it’s still always an awesome time. We earmarked a few movies for upcoming trips, including The 5th Wave, Deadpool, Batman vs. Superman, and some others further down the road.
Today was set aside for The 5th Wave. And we saw it. And… I don’t really know where to start, to be honest. I raged at Terry almost immediately, I decried the film on Twitter while we were walking through the mall, and I ranted some more at him as we drove back home. He deserves a medal or something for putting up with me, to be honest, as he hasn’t read the book but he still kindly listened to my ravings.
I’ve honestly considered writing a long, rambling post here about what they messed up and why, but that would take a very long time. While I know you can’t always include every single little detail or else your movie will be far too long, there are some elements that you really should include. Things such as character development, especially scenes and/or events that form the cornerstone of a character’s motivation and growth, should be included. They don’t necessarily have to be in excruciating detail, but if they’re very important then they should be shown to some degree.
There are several of these types of moments stripped from the book, which was what infuriated so much. I know movie adaptations are seldom as good as their written versions, but this film seemed to go out of its way to revise and omit critical elements in its protagonists’ lives.
Again, I won’t go into as much depth as I kind of want (or could), but here’s a few for those who’ve read the book:
- Cassie’s dad isn’t killed by Vosch right in front of her, which was arguably the key motivator for her after reuniting with her brother. Instead, her dad dies when a meeting goes astray rather than a herding and culling by the Others;
- The whole Cassie and Evan element is extremely rushed and has her docile and running away from him, as opposed to arguing with him, fighting him, finding out about him and keeping it secret until she can use it against him, even trying to kill him, or you know, being a badass in general. In the movie she just runs almost immediately.
- Also, the biggest problem re: her and Evan is that Evan didn’t shoot her in the movie. That’s right, they even show a flashback where he actually shoots another silencer who was shooting her. I was livid at this because lakdawioaw;ldkaw wtf. Seriously. Seriously.
- The whole of the military scenes was sorely disappointing compared to the book. There was no evil drill sergeant punishing them, showing them failing drills, having to work in the disposal area, etc. It honestly felt like they were at camp or something compared to the book.
- Ben wasn’t sick at all in the movie, which is the whole reason behind his Zombie nickname and a huge part of his growth.
- OH YEAH. Also neither Cassie’s nor Ben’s families were shown having to put up with looters / attackers etc., which is how Ben’s family was killed and he ran away. That was a HUGE part of his development, that he ran and didn’t fight, which Vosch took advantage of and why he went back for Sam etc. A HUGE loss for Ben.
- When Ben was brought into the camp he had to actually kill his friend from the outside by pressing that button, not some random person. This was also a huge development for him and beginning to trust Vosch et al.
Ok, shit, I have to stop or else I’ll just keep adding more and growing more and more frustrated. Because god damn, what a let down.
Honestly, the more I think about it I’m just upset over the potential future of any other movies. If this one bombs, and wow, it’s got a (deservedly) horrible score at Rotten Tomatoes, then there’ll likely be no more movies. Just like the His Dark Materials trilogy, which hasn’t had any of the other books translated to film since The Golden Compass bombed. Which sucked because I really wanted to see The Subtle Knife brought to life.
But yes. Bad adaptation, because it just didn’t show why its characters were doing what they were doing. Or how they became who they were at the end of the film. And that’s basically what the whole story is about. I just have no idea who adapted this and thought it was fine. Seriously, I’m so disappointed.
The book was far from my favourite thing ever, but I admit I did grow fairly attached to the characters and really was looking forward to seeing it on the big screen. I didn’t expect it to be perfect, but I expected the portrayal of the characters to have at least some ring of truth to it, not like this.
Which reminds me of a particular scene in The Matrix and gives me a perfect ending to sum up my feelings on this movie: