With the Hunger Games franchise singing its swan song, industry eyes are looking to what might become the next big YA page-to-screen property. On the immediate horizon is one that has many of the ingredients that made The Hunger Games a success: a dystopian setting, a high-stakes race for survival, and a strong-willed heroine thrust into a life she never would have chosen. The 5th Wave (Putnam, 2013), the first in Rick Yancey’s YA science fiction trilogy (followed by The Infinite Sea in 2014), arrives in theaters on January 15. The movie, from Columbia Pictures, stars Chloë Grace Moretz, Nick Robinson, and Liev Schreiber, and is directed by J. Blakeson.
Yancey’s novel, which has 1.4 million copies in print, takes place on present-day Earth, in the aftermath of strategic waves of attacks by an alien species looking to wipe out human beings and conquer the planet. The first wave resulted in Earth losing power; the second caused a giant earthquake; the third unleashed deadly disease; and the fourth, in the aliens taking over the bodies of humans. The book is narrated through four characters’ alternating perspectives – that of Cassie, Zombie, Silencer, and Nugget.
The film focuses primarily on 16-year-old Cassie (Moretz) who survives the attacks and, after roaming solo, armed with a rifle and carrying her brother’s teddy bear, joins forces with others to fight the onslaught before the fifth wave of attacks fully decimates humanity. Robinson plays Ben Parish, or Zombie, Cassie’s love interest. The 5th Wave may spark debate about whether dystopian fatigue has set in among viewers, or whether there is still “hunger” for more. But whereas the enemy in The Hunger Games was a self-serving totalitarian government using media to manipulate individuals into accepting atrocious acts of violence, The 5th Wave sees humanity bound together in the fight against an outside, extraterrestrial force. However, suspicion of fellow humans becomes rampant in The 5th Wave, when aliens take over human bodies, making them virtually indistinguishable from humans.
Unlike other YA properties adapted for screen, The 5th Wave hits theaters before the conclusion of the series is released. The final book, The Last Star, is scheduled for May 2016, several months after the film opens. In an interview earlier this year, Yancey discussed how seeing the film even had some influence on his writing of the last novel, saying: “I also saw things on set that gave me ideas for the third and final book of the series, which I can’t go into here, of course.”
Yancey was not directly involved with making the film, but saw his role on the film set as being that of a “cheerleader.” In the interview he went on to say that, while he might have had a few concerns about whether the film would be effectively translated to screen, he eventually stopped worrying: “Movies are not books. Books are not movies. I write books and shouldn’t presume to tell these very talented professionals how to make movies. After all, they don’t tell me how to write books!”
For readers eager for the final book and the film’s release, the movie tie-in edition of The 5th Wave offers a little teaser taste of the dystopic, mass destruction to come. While there is no news yet about whether The 5th Wave’s sequel will also be adapted to screen, the tie-in edition of the first novel also includes chapters from both The Infinite Sea and another of Yancey’s unrelated books, The Monstrumologist (Simon & Schuster)– which itself is currently in film development.