Review: The Host
PLOT: In a future where humanity has been almost entirely eliminated by an alien species that takes over their bodies, one of the few remaining survivors- Melanie (Saoirse Ronan) is captured and implanted with an alien named Wanderer. However, Melanie refuses to go without a fight, and her subconscious battles Wanderer for control of her body. Eventually, they come to an uneasy truce and set off in search of Melanieís young brother, Jamie (Chandler Canterbury) and lover Jared (Max Irons), with another alien, Seeker (Diane Kruger) in hot pursuit.
REVIEW: Going in, I wasn't terribly optimistic about THE HOST. I must admit that, probably like a lot of this site's readers, Iím somewhat biased against the work of Stephenie Meyer, the author of TWILIGHT, and the novel this is based on. This is the result of suffering through five TWILIGHT movies, and I just canít help it. However, there were a few things about THE HOST that intrigued me going in, most important of which is the presence of Andrew Niccol as director.
Niccol, in addition to last yearís so-so Justin Timberlake vehicle, IN TIME, wrote THE TRUMAN SHOW, and directed two excellent movies, GATTACA, and LORD OF WAR. So I went into THE HOST with an open-mind, hoping that Niccol and Meyer- working outside the TWILIGHT franchise- would surprise me with an intriguing new tale. To be sure, THE HOST actually starts off pretty damn well. The idea that aliens take over their human hosts is nothing new. Itís a classic sci-fi plot, going back to Robert Heinlein, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, and more. Nothingís scarier than the idea of your free will being taken away, and a story about one girlís subconscious battling it out with an alien parasite is really cool.
But, after a promising opening, which establishes a nicely sinister alien world where everyone dresses in white, acts (too) pleasantly, and drive silver plated cars (why?), the action moves to the desert, where Wanderer and Melanie meet up with a band of survivors. These survivors include Melanieís survivalist uncle, Jeb (William Hurt), as well as her brother and ex-lover. Jeb re-names Wanderer Wanda, and she begins to bond with the survivors, and even falls in love with one of them, the sensitive Ian (Jake Abel). So far, so good- right?
Ummm, kinda. Hurt is great (although his southern accent comes and goes), but itís crazy how quickly Wanda is able to win everyone over even though they know sheís an alien. If she was posing as Melanie, that might have been interesting, but due to a pesky tell where the eyes of an infected human get recolored white, thatís impossible. In fact, everyone is won over too quickly, from the little brother, and the boyfriend, to Melanie and Wanda themselves. Everyone is so selfless it starts to really reek of TWILIGHT, especially once the tepid love triangle kicks in.
Still, even at itís very worst; THE HOST is a far better movie than TWILIGHT. It benefits strongly by Saoirse Ronan, who canít help but be utterly likable in whatever she does. Ronan also manages to convey quite well that one body is hosting two distinctly different beings, with her adopting a neutral accent as Wanda, and a lightly-southern one for Melanie. Max Irons, who plays Melanieís boyfriend, also strikes me as a really solid actor. Neither him, nor Ronan phone in their performances, as I suspect Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson have in the last few TWILIGHTís. Jake Abel is also quite good as the ďotherĒ love interest, although his role is extremely two-dimensional- with him and Wanda falling in love so quickly itís not terribly convincing. Meyer obivously likes her love triangles. The adults- William Hurt and Diane Kruger- also try their best, although again, Hurt character seems wildly irresponsible by taking in an alien that could be a spy, while Krueger isnít given much to do but look angry throughout as she hunts Wanda/Melanie down.
For his part, Niccol gives THE HOST an interesting visual style, and also makes room for a surprisingly good score by Antonio Pinto. But, THE HOST almost completely falls apart in the last half-hour due to some all-too convenient plot twists, and a tacked on ending that feels like it was only put on to make way for a sequel. While I have no idea whether THE HOST will make enough of a dent at the box office to inspire a franchise, at least I can say that itís much better than TWILIGHT, and even occasionally comes close to being a good film. Itís too bad that the lousy climax and too many thoroughly dopey characters (with dopey dialogue) muss it up.