Review: The Host is not with the mostess
To be fair, it’s obvious that the new film The Host is geared towards tween-year-old girls with an active imagination regarding what kissing and sleeping together are all about; and maybe for that demographic this movie is more than the unintentional laugh fest that I found it to be. There is a huge fanbase for this film, which is based on the 2008 book by Stephenie Meyer (The Twilight Saga), and I’m certain that no matter what I say the fans will passionately flock to this movie – and good for them. Enjoy.
Now for the rest of us, The Host might just be the cult comedy hit of the season and the Plan 9 from Outer Space for a new generation. The plot is a mash-up of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Red Dawn and They Live, but with a heavy helping of alien teenage angst thrown in for good measure.
Now if you are a sci-fi fan like me, this premise might actually sound kind of promising, but as delivered by writer/director Andrew Niccol (Gattaca) the story turns into something more in common with the comedy Me, Myself & Irene than the classic sci-fi Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
The Earth has been invaded and overrun by alien beings called “souls,” which look like a sort of miniature phosphorescent jellyfish. The souls are inserted into human bodies at the base of their neck and overtake the human body, erasing all of the host’s memories. They travel from planet to planet via some sort of intergalactic web while encased in a shiny football-shaped container.
The aliens feel they are doing the human race a favor by bringing them peace and tranquility in the form of spray bottles that are literally labeled “Peace” and that work by merely spraying the substance into a person’s face – kind of like the opposite of Mace. Their motto appears to be, “Live in peace … or we’ll spray it down your throat!”
The aliens have a penchant for shiny silver cars, motorcycles and helicopters and when they have taken over a human host the person’s eyes even glow with a luminescent silver tint. There are only a handful of humans left who have avoided having their bodies commandeered by the alien souls and the movie begins with Melanie Stryder (Saoirse Ronan) trying to evade apprehension.
Melanie jumps out a window during her escape and is near death, but the alien police force (called “Seekers”) finds her and uses their “Heal” spray on her, and then implant a thousand-year-old alien called “Wanderer” into her body. But the young girl’s consciousness rejects the alien presence and is actually able to have conversations with it from inside her head (we hear this as voiceover conversations with herself.)
She convinces the alien inside of her to not surrender information about her family and a scruffy band of survivors who are holed up in an elaborate maze of tunnels beneath a desert mountain. Melanie’s Uncle Jeb (William Hurt) has even devised a complex system of mirrors that not only provide sunlight for growing crops within the cave but also are used as a cloaking device to remain hidden from the aliens.
Melanie convinces herself as “Wanderer” to locate her people, but when she finds them they treat her as an outcast because the alien spirit that has taken over her body and at first she is afraid to tell them that Melanie’s consciousness still resides within the body as well. Still with me? Don’t worry – it gets even more convoluted.
So before you can say “teenage-alien-soap-opera,” Melanie and Wanda (as Uncle Jeb has named the Wanderer) have a love rectangle going on … but with only three sides. Melanie is in love with Jared (Max Irons), but the alien Wanda (who is also in Melanie’s body) is in love with Ian (Jake Abel). Jared loves Melanie, but hates the alien within her. Ian strangely loves the alien, but he’s cool with having Melanie’s body as part of the deal. Are we really okay with frying our kids’ minds with this stuff?
I really hoped that The Host was going to help the Stephenie Meyer stories to gain some cinematic respect, but unfortunately I think this was actually worse than the last Twilight movie — which I didn’t think was possible.
Not having read any of Meyer’s very popular books, I’m thinking this might just be a case of her written words not being translatable to film. It happens with Stephen King books (that I generally love) all the time. Supernatural in your head and on the page often turns out ridiculous when on the big screen, and this film is nothing if not ridiculous.
Photos © 2012 Open Road Films