“The 5th Wave” made its big screen debut over the weekend. It’s one of my favorite books in recent years, and had all the stars lined up in my favor, I would have made it to the theater this weekend to see it.
Well, let’s just say the more I watched the trailers and read about the project, the more I worried that my beloved book was in the wrong hands. Or maybe shouldn’t even be a movie at all. I don’t want to blame Hollywood directors and writers when a book-to-screen adaptation goes sideways. Some books just don’t easily make the leap to the big screen.
Whatever the problem, it seems my fears were justified. Not even Liev Schreiber, one of my favorites and a great choice for Vosch, could save it. Critics and audiences were underwhelmed. The sad thing is that reflects on the source material, unfair as that may be.
Rick Yancey’s story of survival following an alien invasion, from just a cursory glance, seems like it would be in the same vein as other YA dystopian tales. But Yancey really separates himself from the pack by asking hard questions, questions about survival and what it means to be human. The scene with the “crucifix soldier” (as told in the book) is particularly haunting and heartbreaking. The description of Cassie’s weeks alone in the woods, thinking she could be the last human alive, is both terrifying and thought-provoking. He doesn’t shy away from those themes and that’s why the book is so darn good.
Hollywood doesn’t have the best track record for book-to-screen adaptations. For every good one, there are dozens that fall woefully short. My husband usually avoids watching any movie with me when I’ve read the source material because I become a complete psychopath when the movie roams too far afield. I knew I was in trouble with “The 5th Wave” when the trailer showed Evan (played by Alex Roe) shirtless in the water because THAT’S NOT WHAT HAPPENED IN THE BOOK!!!! AND WHERE IS THE SNOW FROM THE BLIZZARD??? IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE WINTER!!!!
Rick Yancey shared this review on his Facebook page, and I give a huge shout out to the reviewer (who had clearly read the book, or at least did a great job of faking it) for separating the film from the source material. It was refreshing, for a change, for the reviewer to not look down her nose at the book because she didn’t like the movie.
I wish Hollywood would stop thinking of just dollars when selecting these books for production. I know a rabid fan base can translate to movie ticket sales, but it’s time to just stop. I read the rights have been purchased for another favorite trilogy of mine, “Red Rising,” and if I had any pull at all, this book would not be a two-to-three-hour movie. The book is way too long, too much world-building, too many characters. It needs to be a 13-part TV program along the lines of “Game of Thrones” or “Wayward Pines.” Three seasons, one for each book. Please. Pretty please.
I think these episodic programs have done wonders for storytelling. I wasn’t an iota interested in seeing the “Jessica Jones” series on Netflix, until I watched the first episode and was hooked. Great character development and plenty of time to unfold the plot without the dreaded information dump. Same reason I love “Sherlock.” Ninety minutes allows way more time to develop the story. And “Justified.” Elmore Leonard’s short story and great characters came to life over six seasons. I really wish TV would get more involved with these book-to-screen adaptations. I think the success rate would be better.
I’m not saying all book-to-movie screen adaptations are bad. I have the movie version of “The Martian” on hold at the library and can’t wait to see it since I loved, loved, loved the book.
As for the movie, critic reviews were good; audience reaction was great. But, this book was more action-based than thought-provoking, which probably made it a better candidate for big screen adaptation. Just a guess.
Oh, and then there’s Matt Damon. That didn’t hurt either. 🙂