THE HOST Review

Let it first be known that I did not go to see The Host because I am a fan of the Twilight series or of the author of the source material for those films, Stephanie Meyer. When the whole Twilight boom went off and everyone was paying a ton of attention to the films and how they might be adapted I was interested in what all the fuss was about. I even tried to begin reading Twilight just to see if it was any good and to prepare myself for the movie that was coming out later that year. I didn't make it through the book. I don't remember much of it now or even why I decided to quit reading it, but I imagine it just wasn't for me and I'm clearly not the target audience so that was fine. I still gave the films a chance though, seeing both Twilight and New Moon, both of which failed to impress me or bring me back for the final three films. I say all of this to bring up the point that I had the biggest of doubts when it came to another film based on a novel by Meyer. Her token idea didn't entice me so why would I be interested in anything else she has put out? Given that I knew nothing about the book, The Host, which was billed as Meyer's more adult novel and upon seeing the first trailer for this film I wasn't aware it was based on Meyer's book until the trailer told me so; I was intrigued by the story and the concept it seemed to be toying with. I am an avid science fiction fan and when any film even mentions the ideas of life on another planet, space exploration, or grand themes explored through these unknown areas of our universe I am immediately hooked. That it what The Host had on me and that is why I felt I needed to give it a shot. I am clearly in the minority on this, but I rather enjoyed the film and thought it had some interesting things to say if not at least serving as light entertainment.

Seeker (Diane Kruger) is persistent in finding the last human beings left on earth.
The Host picks up as our protagonist Melanie Stryder (Saoirse Ronan) is the latest human to have an alien race take control of her body and use it as a "host" for their race to assimilate into our culture. Melanie is a valuable captive though as she was part of a resistance by some of the last remaining humans and these aliens known simply as Souls hope to use the Melanie's memories to lead them to these pockets of resistance. The wrench is thrown into their plan when Melanie resists and makes it difficult for the alien soul to take over her body and mind. The alien half is come to be known as Wanderer and the then Wanda who develops a relationship with Melanie and decides to try something different than the rest of her race and communicate with the inherent species rather than ignore them and force them out. Though there are some conflicting philosophies spoken throughout the film that cause more than a few questions to pop up in my mind the drive of the narrative is guided by Seeker (Diane Kruger) doing exactly as her name implies and chasing after the escaped Wanderer so that she may find the rest of the humans and complete her species latest quest to conquer as many worlds as they can. While much of this sounds like a fair enough concept film with elements of action there is naturally a love story as well that gets a little complicated and a little cheesy, but the actors portraying this film are more competent than not and especially Ronan who makes the inner conflict displayed through voice over more credible than it has any right to be and more engaging than it should have been given some of the bad dialogue. I'm not saying I loved the film or that there aren't problems with it, there definitely are, but it isn't anywhere near as bad as you've likely been led to believe.

What I enjoyed most about the film was that it didn’t go exactly where I thought it would. After seeing several (too many, really) trailers and ads for the film I felt like I knew the beats of the script and what this might eventually turn into. I was fairly confident that we would get a short prologue telling us how Melanie had survived so long after the invasion of the spirits and how she met Jared (Max Irons, son of Jeremy) and fell in love with him before being ripped from his arms and captured by the aliens who took over her body and the remainder of the film would be Jared searching for her, hoping to save her and encountering obstacles along the way; simple as that. I had no reason to expect anything more, but from the beginning I was taken off guard by the fact the film didn’t play into these expectations. Whether it was because of this or that my expectations had been severely lowered I became engaged with the film and several of its cool ideas and profound themes it seemed to be trying to convey. There is a moment in the film when it asks a question about equality, about how one might deal with admitting the wrongs of your people and being understanding or even tolerant of what another group has done in defense of that. Do you go with your loyalty or with your integrity? It is all about placing yourself in someone else’s position and understanding that people’s needs and wants might always be competing, but that doesn’t necessarily mean one is more important than the other. They are fairly weighty issues that could be applied to any number of political or ideological activists and their campaigns. Sure, there is the easy way to dismiss this film as another love triangle from the author of Twilight with a cool concept thrown in to serve as the backdrop, but the feeling I received from experiencing the film is that it was something more than that and that it had something more important to say.

Jared (Max Irons) and Melanie (Saoirse Ronan) are reunited and it feels so good.
Obviously there are going to be certain elements here that have been thrown in or incorporated because Meyer knows her audience and knows what they want and desire from her, but that doesn’t relegate her to strictly keeping with those archetypes. I haven’t read the book and so I don’t know how faithful the film adaptation is, but I’m almost positive that some of these nuances also come from director Andrew Niccol (Gattaca, Lord of War). The guy has a certain flair for creating dystopian worlds with unique aspect to them and that continues to be true here. As the screenwriter as well as the director Niccol has laid out the foundations for which he allows his characters to build and develop to a point we feel invested with the community of people we come to be a part of and what their purpose is and why they’re fighting for it. While both of the male leads (Irons as well as Jake Abel) are rather bland and service the story only to create that signature love triangle it is the relationship Wanda forms with Jeb (William Hurt) and Melanie’s younger brother Jamie (Chandler Canterbury) that really show there is more to the film than the love story. Hurt is especially appealing as Jeb and adds credibility to the film in that he saw a gem of an idea in this script and wanted to be a part of it. There are of course some sticky situations going on when you get into the politics of the love triangle the story crafts as Irons Jared loves Melanie and Abel’s Ian loves Wanda, both of who inhabit the same body, but there is a more important theme there other than how perverted you could make that situation. Especially when thinking of Meyer’s main demographic you have to somewhat applaud her for making Ian not care what Wanda may actually look like, but that he instead falls for her compassion and personality. The Host may be easily dismissed by most, but it is a great looking film with some interesting ideas and I really enjoyed it and wouldn’t mind seeing it again. That is the truth no matter how amateur that might make me sound.