I love adaptions… not that they are all created equal but who doesn’t enjoy seeing the written word up on the big screen live in pictures and rich in colors?! Okay, sometimes we are disappointed… but is it because it isn’t what we expect or was the story not able to measure up to its visuals…?
The 5th Wave
The 5th Wave #1
by Rick Yancey
Published May 7th 2013
by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Cassie and Zombie are two survivors of an alien invasion that came in 4 waves. Wave 1 was an electromagnetic pulse to knock out the power. Wave 2 was to wipe out coastal cities and drop population numbers so that Wave 3 a virus could decimate them. If that is not enough the surviving humans know that any human they come across could be a silencer (Wave 4), an alien that looks and acts like a survivor but whose objective is to wipe out their contemporaries. This synopsis sounds like it reveals A LOT, right? No. We are given this same information as matter of factly as I just listed it!
Told in dual POVs (we get guest POVs irregularly too – Silencer and Sam) we follow Cassie and Zombie as they try to deal with being survivors in the aftermath of destruction. Unlike my fellow reviewers I did not take to Cassie. She felt like a dime a dozen “Badass Mary Sue” who was uncertain just what that meant except that it definitely meant being suspicious of people while not exactly untrusting. We’ve seen this character countless times, they somehow empower women while seeming to me to be all about their strut capability and their cynical mouth. I was wondering what in the world anyone found compelling about this book. Then we got to the other POVs.
My favorite was the Silencer POV, given briefly so that we understand what is going on with Cassie’s POV – I really felt this character had potential to be dynamite! In a dual POV story we want contrast, so many people go with sex: male and female, but why not human and alien?! Wow! That would have made this book epic! So once I could see this potential I wanted to see where the author really took it. It wasn’t bad. Zombie was a hell of a lot more interesting, his story made more sense than Cassie’s did (since she is a contemporary of Zombie’s they should have taken her on the bus, not her little brother who is too young) and he had a bit more emotional heft to his backstory. He meets a really badass girl whose POV I’d have much preferred over Zombie’s. In fact, lets make the less interesting Zombie and Cassie the friends with benefits and make Evan and Ringer the POV characters.
Evan felt very creepy as a love interest because the “love” was so instalove and we didn’t get enough of his POV to understand it! Start with him! Make us care about so-so Cassie, the regular bassass Mary Sue because Evan the bonded alien human cares! (Writing 101) He even has a ready made character arc in Sam. Why does Cassie care so much for Sam? Why am I starting to care for Sam because Cassie cares? ETC. Ringer was hands down many readers favorite character, because, I like to think, she truly acted like a badass suspicious girl! Zombie’s backstory was interesting in a ho-hum sort of way but would have been a lot better if we learned it through this badass suspicious girl he slowly wins over and must reveal he’s really a coward to. I would have liked to know how she realized the truth about the aliens (especially as the twist wasn’t really that well done to begin with!) and seen all the training from her “superior skills” POV.
The plot wasn’t original. Again we are seeing a popular book because of the twist reveal at the end (that I saw and hopefully, most readers saw, a MILE away!) and an amalgamation of the plots of many other stories that just aren’t as well known to most of the reading public. The poor storytelling really was disappointing (so much better choices could have been made) but it was the boring writing that really was sour (its so peevish when a reader likes a book and waxes on about the excellent writing when they really just liked the twists. Twists ARE NOT writing!)
BOTTOM LINE: Great Amalgamation of Alien Invasion Stories.
Now how did the adaption do? I pegged this book as a great one to adapt as most of the scenes work as they are… is my guess correct?
The 5th Wave (2016)
Directed by J Blakeson
Chloë Grace Moretz
Cassie Sullivan has survived 4 waves of an alien invasion against all odds. When she’s separated from her brother, Sam, she fights to get back to him.
I like watching adaptions and comparing what we see on screen to what I read in the book. I have to say that typically even if it isn’t the best movie it’s still normally cool to see on screen what you only read about in a book. Most directors are cognizant that their basic duty is to show the cool moments in a visually stunning way…
I was as incensed by how this movie started as I was about how the book started!! The voice overs and the lame visuals were so disappointing. The people watching the movie with me howled (they no longer will watch a movie with me without grilling me about it first…) It was that bad…
The best scenes of the book were not in the movie!! The book was written as if it were a movie, perfectly shallow for the screen… I was actually looking forward to this aspect… but the waves weren’t represented well. The intake of Sam wasn’t shown. Zombie and Ringer’s training wasn’t shown. It was like the director deliberately took out any scene that was written that would translate visually to the screen!! Bad choices here… There was a scene where Cassie runs and Evan chases her down. I don’t remember that scene in the book… but it was decently setup and created some tension about Silencer.
I was hoping that in traditional movie land adaption methods that the story would be redeveloped to “fix” the logic breaks that were in the book. The movie actually preserved them and took away some of the scenes that explained what was happening quite well! Basically the movie made me want to scream almost the whole time.
Actually Evan was one of the better parts of the movie. The dual nature of his character was well presented and kept consistent to his original character. There was just a nugget of goodness in his scenes. The acting was just okay but obviously the director or whoever wrote the screenplay liked this character and actually did them some justice…
All the acting was just okay. They didn’t raise the quality of story… but they did their job and I didn’t hate them (which is good, right?)!!
BOTTOM LINE: Worse than the book (as incredible as that may seem…)
For the book, as a writer I would have changed the POVs to Ringer and Evan. They are the more compelling POVS so run with them!! I can’t say it enough but POV is THE most important decision a writer can make… I wouldn’t have done anyone else’s POV either. Keep it tight, leave events to the readers imagination and use those off-page events you do figure out to add tension and depth to your on-page events.
For the movie, as a screenwriter I would have taken all of the scenes that had viable visuals to create some power on the screen. I would shorten anything that was needed to carry the story to its barest bones around those scenes. I would have focused on Cassie’s relationship with Sam and Evan and Zombie’s relationship with the Colonel and Ringer. There isn’t enough time to bond with everyone so only the pertinent ones matter.