Monday, February 8, 2016

Guest Post by Spencer John - Power Grid Failure and Natural Disasters Are All Too Real in The 5th Wave

The 5th Wave explores what might happen in a world of massive power outages, natural disasters and invasion. Although there is a general taste for post-apocalyptic novels and movies, The 5th Wave sets itself apart based on its perspective. It follows the Old Testament plague storyline of a population being attacked again and again by various deluges - a power grid failure, avian flu, a massive tsunami and even extraterrestrial body snatchers. In some fashion, we have experienced all of these things in our actual lives, and this is what makes The 5th Wave so poignant. 

As aliens make their presence on Earth know through these “waves” of attack, the story follows 16 year old Cassie (ChloĆ« Grace Moretz) on a race to rescue her younger brother (Zackary Arthur) from an alien-run training camp. In the first wave, all electronics completely stopped working. The movie was perhaps ahead of its time in showing how dependent everyone had become on technology. Humanity was completely defenseless against the attacks - communication was shut down and no one knew what to do without their machines.

In the second wave, steel beams fall on the major fault lines around the world, followed by tsunamis that wiped out about a quarter of the population around the world. The true horror of this part of the movie occurs as people think back to the earthquakes that so easily destroy even the most powerful and sturdy of human creations. The third wave attacked the population on the cellular level. An avian flu overtook the world in the same way that Ebola did and the current Zika virus is. Although Ebola did not have near the same effect that the avian flu had in the movie, the fear and panic was undoubtedly similar.

 Finally, in the fourth wave, the aliens came down and began to physically possess human bodies. Once humanity had been weakened to the point of no defense, the aliens felt no fear in coming down and initiating a frontal attack. The possession turned humanity on itself as a civil war of sorts began between family members and friends.

 While not that great of a movie overall, the really interesting thing about The 5th Wave is the realistic energy threats it presents - these things could happen in real life! The power grid failure in the first wave of attack calls attention to the power outages that have happened around the world as well as the vulnerability of the American power grid. According to Direct Energy, the US power grid is using over ten percent more power than it was a decade ago, and experiencing more than 210 blackout minutes per year. Huge blackouts in Pakistan and North Holland showcased just how dependent humanity has become on its electric grids, and it’s scary to think that humanity was weakened so much by the power outages that no one was prepared for the plagues that came after!

Not only are blackouts a constant worry and inconvenience, but hacking and EMP attacks have been concerns of the government for years,  especially now that our dependency on machines has skyrocketed. The entire power grid could be dismantled by an electromagnetic pulse from a high altitude nuclear bomb, terrorist hackers could easily disable the grid due to lack of upgrades and safety regulations and let’s not forget how susceptible it is to major forces of weather. But not only does The 5th Wave touch on technological failure, climate change is brought front and center through natural disasters with catastrophic results.

Although The 5th Wave presents a compelling and exciting take on a dystopia, fans of the novel source material were slightly disappointed in it’s adaptation. The movie had less detail than the source material; however, the visuals and stellar performances from a talented cast definitely added a level of immersion that the book simply could not have. While an overall entertaining storyline and watch overall, if we really take the message of The 5th Wave seriously, we all have some serious changes to make in our lives to avoid an attack of our own!

Spencer John is a freelance entertainment, culture, and lifestyle blogger. He lives and works in Chicago. When not working he can be found camped out in his apartment watching the latest films and newest television shows.


Kate @Midnight Book Girl said...

The 5th Wave isn't my first EMP book, but I do wish that both the book and movie delved into all the ways that would make our current lives difficult- patients who need medicine that needs to be kept at certain temperatures would be among the early dead.

I only read a little of the book before I went and saw the film. I agree it looked good, but not even having read the entire book I was let down by the movie. Cassie a much stronger character in the books, and so much was left out. Despite my lukewarm feelings towards the movie, I did go home and finish the book the next day. said...
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