The first in a trilogy based on Ricky Yancey’s young adult sci-fi books, The 5th Wave is set in a post-apocalyptic world where an alien race has begun destroying Earth. An enormous spaceship hovers menacingly over North America, unleashing waves of destruction. In the first wave, The Others, as they are called by humans, take away Earth’s power resources. Natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods and tidal waves follow in the second wave. Sickness and infection kill millions in the third wave. It’s now time for the fourth wave.

Sixteen-year-old Cassie Sullivan (Chloë Grace Moretz) and her brother Sammy (Zackary Arthur) survive the first three waves, but can they outlive the next two? In the fourth wave, The Others have taken human form making it impossible to trust anyone. In this hopeless and frightening scenario, Cassie is determined to track down Sammy after they were separated at a refugee camp. Sammy is now part of an army of children under the command of Colonel Vosch (Liev Schreiber).

During her mission to track down Sammy, Cassie finds an unexpected ally in the strange Evan Walker (Alex Roe), who helps her reach the camp just as the fifth wave is being activated.

Romance is force-fitted into the action in a random scene in which Cassie gawks at Evan as he methodically bathes his chiseled torso in a lake. Later, the duo stumbles upon an abandoned car in a wood leading to a Titanic moment. Moretz takes on the part energetically, but you cannot help but feel she is miscast as a fearless, strong and focused teenager.

Director J Blakeson leans on genre tropes and leaves the narrative wide open for the building of a franchise. Though he begins strong, as we see wave upon wave killing off mankind, the sense of fear of annihilation is not sustained. The 5th Wave, which has echoes of Divergent and The Hunger Games, both of which have strong female protagonists, is too obviously just the introductory chapter. It unhurriedly sets up the tone and characters for part two (based on the book titled The Infinite Sea).