Warning: This article contains spoilers for The 5th Wave film and novel.
In January, I went to see The 5th Wave on opening day, and I must admit it was one of my favorite movie experiences of the year so far. Being a fan of the book and loving the casting choices, I enjoyed the film very much. And unlike the critics, I thought it was a great triumph that featured all-around strong performances.
However, I did think that it left a lot of the character development out. But a movie can't replicate everything a book does, so it was forgivable. Despite a negative reception, the film was a moderate success, almost tripling its (similarly moderate) budget of $38 million. As of May, its takings are almost $110 million and the expected sequel very well could (and should) go ahead as a result of this success.
Naturally, upon its release I bought the film on Blu-ray and was looking forward to rewatching it. I enjoyed it as much the second time, but once I selected what I assumed would be less than 10 minutes of deleted scenes, I recognized every missed opportunity for the film to be much greater than it was.
There was no less than 30 minutes' worth of golden deleted scenes. And thus I realized that the script didn't leave out all that amazing character development — rather, the scenes were actually filmed, but ended up on the cutting room floor. Let's take a look at the scenes that should have remained and why they would have strengthened the film.
The Film Would Have Been More Loyal To The Book
Rick Yancey's novel The 5th Wave is a young adult masterpiece. It received rave reviews and became a New York Times Best Seller. Fans were excited to hear the announcement of a movie adaptation and the casting for the film was absolutely spot-on: Chloë Grace Moretz was the perfect Cassie — beautiful but badass, determined not to let the world beat her down.
Joining her was Nick Robinson as Ben Parish, who had the smile, the look, the accessibility — yet as Zombie he was drained, beaten, somber. Despite the strong performances, and a critically acclaimed opening sequence, the film wasn't well-received. Perhaps that was because the film tended to recycle young adult tropes instead of rely on the thrilling sci-fi story from the source material.
After watching the deleted scenes, I can see now that the film would have been received a lot better had it remained true to the book. Why? Because those scenes actually feature a lot of the stronger material sourced from the book.
This is my biggest issue with these scenes being cut. In the book, Ben Parish/Zombie is equally important to the story as Cassie Sullivan. Although the film does a great job of setting up these two protagonists, it tended to favor Cassie — which is fair enough. However, in the novel, Zombie's journey in the barracks consists of three major plot points: Becoming leader of Squad 53, bonding with Sammy/Nugget, and Tank going rogue. All of these scenes were cut from the film.
Their absence led to the film seeming rushed and slightly disjointed in the middle. We never really got to know any of the other squad members, all of whom featured prominently in the book. Even the scenes of their rigorous training were turned into a montage, thus Squad 53 had less screen time. And yet, suddenly they're well-trained assassins. The film would have flowed much better had these scenes remained in the final cut.
Tank 'Going Dorothy'
One of the most integral plot points in the novel is Ringer's integration into Squad 53. This could not take place without Tank "going Dorothy." By "going Dorothy" I mean Tank breaking down and losing it while screeching how they were "all going to die," so much so that he could no longer be trusted with a gun.
Although it isn't referred to as "going Dorothy" in the film, the script should be commended for including all this. Flynn McHugh did a fantastic job as Tank and delivered a really authentic performance. Seriously, those deleted scenes were golden. Unfortunately, all this juicy Squad 53 and Tank-related material also ended up on the cutting room floor, yet for some bizarre reason Ringer is still introduced with the same explanation — he's replaced someone who's gone rogue — yet none of us understand why, because the scene wasn't in the film.
Once again, it would have made so much more sense to viewers if Tank remained in the film. Furthermore, his breakdown would have added a real "end of the world" vibe that the film sometimes lacked.
It Would Have Been Much Darker
The deleted scenes feature a lot more graphic content than the theatrical cut. This would have made the film appeal to a much wider audience. The film lived up to its young adult label, but it didn't quite reach its potential in the sci-fi/thriller category.
The deleted scenes, however, featured scenes worthy of this label: The drawn-out uncertainty of what the Others wanted as their ship loomed overhead, Cassie's mother succumbing to the virus, Tank losing it, Reznik's true vicious nature. They added a thrilling tone to the film and had these scenes remained, The 5th Wave could have lived up to its full potential.
Zombie And Nugget
Another one of those important aspects was seeing Zombie become like a big brother to Sammy, Cassie's brother, in the barracks. In the film, it just kind of happens. But the deleted scenes really develop this relationship.
While I understand that the filmmakers may have had to cut some scenes for the sake of run time, was it really necessary to cut out integral plot points like this one, while retaining the scene of Cassie watching Evan bathing? I think not.
Sam/Nugget and Zombie is one of the best relationships in the franchise and the film would have benefited from showing it. Actors Nick Robinson and Zackary Arthur had great chemistry; they just weren't given as much of an opportunity to show it in the final cut.
I remember thinking about how the film had dropped the trackers' ability to terminate anyone who went rogue. And then I watched the deleted scenes and noticed how two scenes referenced that very ability. So I have to ask: Why was it dropped? It would have added another layer of intrigue to the Others' technology.
The deleted version of Reznik's death when Cassie tricks Reznik into using the terminate button, unaware that the tracker is inside her instead, is much more faithful to the books and would have highlighted the power that these trackers possess. So why were two really brief but integral scenes cut from the theatrical release when they added so much more than some of the scenes that made it to the final cut?
When Sergeant Reznik died in the theatrical cut of the film, I found myself feeling a little sorry for her. Sure, she was an evil alien, but she hadn't been overtly cruel or vile to the recruits to warrant a feeling of satisfaction upon her death. Plus, the death was a little tame for a strong-willed, high-ranking alien officer.
However, if you read the book, you would know that Reznik was a little different. First off, the character was male. But moreover, he was a vile tyrant who pushed the kids far beyond their limits. The film's deleted scenes not only highlighted how cruel our film version of Reznik (played magnificently by Maria Bello) could truly be, but her behavior in those deleted scenes was closer to that of her novel counterpart.
Furthermore, upon viewing those scenes, one could be forgiven for not feeling quite so sorry for her. The deleted death scene is much more befitting of the character, highlighting her will to stay alive and the ease at which she is willing to destroy humans. Cassie placing the tracker inside Reznik's nose mirrored Rick Yancey's novel, when she did the same to Dr. Pam. The deleted scenes painted Reznik as the cold-blooded, almost reptilian, evil survivor that she was, and also should have remained intact.
In conclusion, I thoroughly enjoyed The 5th Wave novel. I also enjoyed the film and took great pride in the fact that it managed, albeit scantily, to mirror the events of the novel. I also really hope the film's success and the novel's continued success will lead to a sequel.
However, Sony should learn how to perfect the tone of the story this time, and there is one simple solution: Stick with the darker scenes. The 5th Wave is indeed a young adult novel with elements of romance, but it's also so much more than that. Had the film maintained these deleted scenes, it could have been so much more.
Should the deleted scenes of The 5th Wave have remained in the final version of the film? Would they have added to it or detracted from it?