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The Host

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Scott Roberts
The Host
on Apr 24, 2013 at 1:49:38 pm

Get ready for another entry into Hollywood's recent obsession with giving teenagers supernatural powers, or something... Or whatever... Is it sad to say that I miss the era of movies when we were force-fed film after film about little British children going on magical adventures? Well, let's not say things we can't take back, but neither genre is particularly flattering (except Harry Potter, OBVIOUSLY).

The Host is about a future where aliens have quietly overrun the planet by taking over human bodies and using them as their own life vessels. Some humans still linger around in unexplainably nice cave systems in the middle of the desert (where they have the ability to grow crops underground), and they don't trust anyone with the glowing blue eyes that indicate they are alien. But when one alien (named "Wanderer" [OR WANDA FOR SHORT {fart noise}]) takes over the body of Melanie, the human form doesn't go out without a fight. Melanie is present throughout the entire film via (super echoey and cheesy) internal dialogue with Wanda. In other words, Wanda is having conversations with herself for like 3/5th of this movie.

And that certainly didn't help the acting side of things. Saoirse Ronan is forced throughout the film to talk to nobody, but at the same time required to answer questions from Melanie. So to think of it in terms of what Ronan was doing as an actual actress; the director would say "Action!", and Ronan would sit there for ten seconds looking confused in her car, then yell "I DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT!" to nobody. I would pay to see a version of The Host where all of the internal dialogue was cut out from the final product, and it was just Wanda running through the streets for minutes at a time yelling out-of-context phrases wildly into the open air every 20 seconds. "HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT?" "BUT WE'LL GET CAUGHT" "YOU DON'T CONTROL ME" "I'LL FIND IT MYSELF". That would be a great movie. It would up the humor in a relatively humor-less film. Besides, doesn't anyone care that Wanda is constantly talking *out-loud* to herself, often in front of other people? I want to see the film through the other character's eyes. [silent room full of people] (out of nowhere) "YOU KNEW IT ALL ALONG?"

The rest of the cast? Pretty terrible. Mostly a ragtag collection of twenty-somethings I've never seen in anything else. But William Hurt was there (Body Heat represent!)! So was Rose's mom from Titanic! They... uh... acted...! Most of the time when someone playing an alien was on-screen, the director wanted to show off the super radical blue contact lenses they bought for everyone (or was that all done in post?), so the actor pretty much didn't blink or show any emotion during the entire scene. Pretty rare that you get to see live action actors that struggle to act with their eyes. That's usually reserved for Dreamworks Animation movies. Also, most of the dialogue was, well, not inspiring to say the least.

The special effects are a step up from Twilight's laughably bad wolf creatures. The cave set pieces were pretty bad-looking, at least by actual cave standards. Most of the technology (sorry, all of the technology) was rehashed concepts from other science fiction sources. Nothing much new was brought to the table.

I can't help but feel like large chunks of the book were excluded from the movie, which is obviously the norm for almost any book adaptation. But I mean, this felt like LARGE chunks of the book were missing. Upon looking it up, the book that this is based on is 619 pages!! Apparently Stephanie Meyer doesn't have an editor. So it's pretty understandable that this movie felt like a CliffsNotes version of whatever it was actually trying to say. But the screenwriters didn't even try to rewrite the script to reflect the omitted areas, they just left it all unexplained. I was able to pick up the plot of the film easy enough, but some of the characters' actions were questionably odd when totally out of context. Frankly, I'm just happy that the story didn't boil down to another crappy love triangle.

The Host is a movie that is forever bound to the Twilight series, due to its author. And in a lot of ways, the producers made sure that you don't forget that. All the sweaty teen bodies fighting off constant sexual urges while supernatural forces eek their way towards them, all the long blank stares, the slow editing, the choppy storytelling. It's all there. At the same time, you can also tell that this movie doesn't want to be at all related to Twilight. Just an assumption of mine here, but I feel like The Host was Stephanie Meyer's attempt to actually write a brilliant science fiction novel, and not just make another mindless cash grab. Based on the end result that I paid money to see, it didn't quite turn out in her favor. But it really did feel like she was, at the very least, trying to write something interesting.

That being said, it's an intriguing enough premise, and has just the right amount of quasi-science mixed with generically attractive women; that if this was a series on SyFy Channel instead of a movie, I'm pretty sure it would have a loyal fan base of nerds. Just my hunch. Or this could have been the crown jewel of SyFy Channel made-for-TV movies. I'm of the theory that Hollywood's sci-fi trash is most likely cable television's SyFy treasure.

Regardless of what failed and what succeeded, The Host is quite bluntly just bad science fiction. At nearly every turn, I was thinking to myself, "Well, why didn't they just do that?" "Why didn't they go there first?" "Why are these people doing this?" It's a non-stop barrage of logic flaws. So many in fact (and at such a consistent rate), that the movie actually benefits from an acknowledgement that it doesn't bother them that so much is wrong and/or unexplained. It has sort of a "I wish I was a better movie, but I know I'm not" kind of charm. I didn't like The Host, but it's probably better than most of the young adult supernatural garbage that they played trailers for before it started. In other words, as bad as The Host was, it looks like District 9 compared to The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (yes, that's a real movie title).

5 out of 10

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Tim Wilson
Re: The Host
on Apr 24, 2013 at 2:58:13 pm

[Scott Roberts] "The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (yes, that's a real movie title)."

Ah, not an afficianado of YA fiction I see. This is the first of a highly acclaimed 6-volume series, with a 3-volume series of prequels already published and sequel trilogy just announced. Harry Potter was a "mere" 7 books of course, with Twilight and Hunger Games being merely 3.

The Mortal Instruments series is clearly not a zeitgeist shifter like those others, but well-regarded and a solid seller - top 10 NYT seller and American Library Association recommended books of the year, that kind of thing.

This one has half-angel, half-human warriors, a secret, parallel world inside New York, 15 year old girl protagonist, etc etc etc. I like the books a lot, although I can certainly make better recommendations if you're inclined. Still, average 'em a little north of four stars out of five.

The movie will have a number of very-nearly stars like Lena Headley and Jonathan Rhys (Tudors) Meyers in grown-up supporting roles, and a bunch of unknowns as the young leads, an approach that worked out fine for Harry.

My guess, though, closer to Percy Jackson in execution, which was too bad. The Percy books are a complete gas, very highly recommended mix of the boarding school trope with Greek gods in the present day. Loved 'em, but the movie, not so much...although the trailer for the sequel looks hot. The books deserve a good movie.

So does this series, but I get the Percy Jackson feeling from the choice of director, Harald Zwart. He had a hit with Jaden Smith's Karate Kid (didn't see it), but he also helmed Agent Cody Banks (Freddie Muniz, Hilary Duff and...Ian McShane) and One Night at McCool's (Liv Tyler and an inexplicably large and strange cast of men -- Michael Douglas, Matt Dillon, Paul Reiser, Andrew Dice Clay...I know I'm leaving some out...who were in lurv with her) -- two of the epic-ly bad pictures from the early century.

But if you're hankering for 15 year old heroines and angels in a secret world inside New York, you can probably do worse. LOL

[Scott Roberts] "619 pages!! Apparently Stephanie Meyer doesn't have an editor."

Long, but not overly so for epic YA fiction. I remembered three of the Harry Potter books being longer than 619 pages, so I just looked it up. Here are the last 4 in the series:

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - 734
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - 896
Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince - 652
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - 784

My experience as a reader is that they flew by, so I didn't think twice about their length. I think that they made the made the right call to split the finale into 2 parts, but leave the others as one.

Although frankly, the third book in the Hunger Games trilogy, Mockingjay, is only 400 pages and to me DEFINITELY merits 2 movies.

So on one hand, Stephanie has made them enough dough that they might have given this one the full megillah, but I suspect that the pile she made them was just enough to get this one made AT ALL. I don't think anybody's expectations were too high, and I think it showed.

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Mark Suszko
Re: The Host
on Apr 24, 2013 at 3:49:53 pm

One of the hard things in film is to translate a book that's all internal monologue, into a watchable movie version, while retaining enough of the sense of the original.

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