Host with the Most! I won’t say expectations are everything, but they surely are something. And going into sci-fi flick The Host I was pleased to know so much talent associated with it: like director Andrew Niccol (In Time, Gattaca), and actors Saoirse Ronan (Hannah, The Lovely Bones) and Diane Kruger (Inglorious Basterds). And even more surprised and pleased to see William Hurt (Into the Wild, Altered States), too. And even I’ve never read though Stephenie Meyer’s pre-Twilight novel of the same name, the trailer seemed to hold promise.
And after a brief onscreen explanation for the movie’s current state of affairs (aliens have taken over the bodies of most of the human population), it starts off with an action-packed bang, possibly in reaction to Twilight’s lack of action. So far so good. I see shades of The Hidden, The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and the possibility of an exploration regarding what makes us really human. But then even Niccol’s talents can’t keep the Meyer out of the screenplay.
Get Lost. Within minutes, Ronan’s “Melanie” makes a transformation that took Bella Swan three Twilight movies; moving from young lady who’s never been kissed to one who REALLY wants some sex (possibly another reaction to the glacial pace of the Twilight films). Even so, she has issues with closeness, and it’s a guy who may literally be the last man on earth making laughable arguments against sex, including letting her know that she “doesn’t have to do this” even after her insistence that she really WANTS to.
Then comes the details, and that’s where the devil is. Supposedly non-violent aliens somehow took over the Earth non-violently; possibly with their hand-held spacemace. Earth is at peace since these aliens are above the pettiness that made us all so unruly, except they really like their bling; dressing in the finest anti-Matrix garb (think Neo but in white), and driving mirror-chrome Lotuses. And these are the alien cops called Seekers who hunt down the remaining humans. Yeah; I’m sure I’ll never see you coming stepping out of your shiny sports car in head-to-toe white suits.
Then comes The Stephenie Meyer Goofy Name™ (Renesmee, anyone?). The alien that takes over Melanie is sadly called “Wanderer.” And that’s what she’s called for the remainder of the movie until Hurt’s “Jeb” decides he doesn’t like that name (good call) and nicknames her Wanda (bad call).
Then comes the comical cliff-hangers that I call The Batman Principle; wherein captives are given detailed explanations for dastardly plans, and more than enough time and space to escape said plans. Sometimes bodyguards disappear just in time for some critical element to go unnoticed (Melanie gives up a piece of information about the remaining humans to Wanderer, who writes it down due to a convenient lack of supervision), only to suddenly reappear when needed to enforce house rules.
All of which pales in comparison to the cheese that flows from nearly every line of dialogue and note of music bed. Unfortunately, the movie-length conversation between Melanie/Wanderer in voice-over provides the worst of it, with Wanderer saying something like “I’m going to do so-and-so” with Melanie responding, “Yeah; good luck with that” or something similarly original. You would think that someone would’ve noticed what a lousy idea this was early on, preferring some internal conflict to overt dialogue, but no. Plus, you have to keep in mind the target audience, for whom everything must be spelled out.
And it’s they whom I blame for pervasiveness of The Stephenie Meyer Love-Triangle™ (or as ctrmovies’ Dan Metcalf called it for The Host, a love-square). Melanie loves Max Irons’ “Jared”, while Wanda falls for Jake Abel’s “Ian” leading to one girl of two minds to be fought over by two guys! Never saw that one coming from Meyer. This sets us up for all sorts of teen-angst crap of what to tell which guy in lieu of any actual plot development or sci-fi in this flick. Then add The Stephenie Meyer Sex Issue™ with the alien Wanda half of Ronan wanting to explore her newfound human emotions while the Melanie side wants some sex but still has issues with icky smooching. Then add a dash Stephenie Meyer’s Unconscious Subtexts™ like women being mainly caretakers, or Kruger’s “Seeker” being the lone, bitter career woman in a roomful of male Seekers. Toss with the Stephenie Meyer Obligatory Happy Ending™ (or two) and you’ve to yourself a stew!
But I don’t want to eat it.
Rich’s Movie Grade: C-
Directed by: Andrew Niccol
Written by: Stephenie Meyer (novel), Andrew Niccol (screenplay)