The Host

I've never read the book, so I don't have a foundation to base my opinion on. That's both a good thing and a bad thing. On one hand, it lets me judge the movie on its own merits. On the other, I don't know what is missing, which means I have no idea if those omissions could've been beneficial or detrimental to what was on screen.

For the most part, it was a very serviceable movie, neither exceptional nor terrible. I think a lot of the hate is based on the author of the source material. I don't have a bias either way, really. I don't like Meyer's work so much that I'm blind to her flaws. Which means I have some objectivity when it comes to this adaptation... I think.

What I did like were the gorgeous visuals that were slick and very sci-fi, from slightly futuristic cityscapes to truly original looking alien life forms. This movie had a lot going for it at least on that front.

Unfortunately, The Host isn't hardcore science fiction, and it isn't space fantasy, either. Instead, it's a romance with sci-fi elements, much like Twilight is a romance with vampire elements. That doesn't automatically mean it's a good or bad story. It just means it's kind of its own genre, the genre romance. If it wasn't linked to such a huge franchise like Twilight, I doubt this would've ever been made. I guess that's the definition of a cash in. At least it was a little better than your typical soulless corporate money grab.

The basic problem with the movie is one of the most original things about it. The plot revolves around a young woman implanted with a parasitic alien life form named Wanderer. Normally, the parasite suppresses the mind of the host it inhabits, but in this case, the host doesn't give in. This presents a very internal type of story that in book form must've been interesting.

In translation, it was a little uneven. I think the lead (Saoirse Ronan) did the best job possible given the script she was given, and I think even the director (Andrew Niccol) did a nice job as well. Unfortunately, this dual personality, done simply by having the Melanie (the host body's mind) speak in voiceover while Wanderer speaks out loud, caused a problem in dynamic. Even though the characters were well defined, I didn't really know who to root for, since Wanderer was clearly a good person... creature... whatever. Although it was fascinating to hear the back and forth between Wanderer and Melanie at times, Melanie was lost a little in translation. It felt like Wanderer's movie. So when the inevitable love interests start showing up, it becomes a love quadrangle. Which was novel, but a little awkward and underdeveloped because of time constraints.

The villain, Seeker (Diane Kruger), was also a little meh. Which again wasn't really the actress's fault, since she did a fine job displaying subtle internal conflict and managed to clue the audience into something that wasn't very clear. I won't say what, though. In fact, none of the actors, including the wonderful William Hurt and Frances Fisher, gave sub-par performances. I blame it almost entirely on the characterizations and dialogue. Other than the lead, we didn't care all that much about the characters. Even the major love interests for Wanderer and Melanie were also underdeveloped even though they had a lot of screen time. I think I only preferred one of them because he was played by Jake Abel (Supernatural).

The resolution was also a little rushed. They didn't leave any big unanswered questions, but it did leave me with a bit of a shallow feeling. It was an ambitious story, and it could've been phenomenal if it had been taken in a different direction. However, I think it was based on source material that wasn't that strong. There were really some lovely ideas presented, and they were implemented adequately, but nowhere near as good as they could've been.

2 1/2 out of 4 Glowy space worms that are so much prettier than the ugly green pods in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related.

1 comment:

a.m. said...

Thanks for the review, J.D.!

I really enjoyed this book even though it was written by Stephanie Meyer. I've read it a few times and am always captivated by the characters, especially Wanderer and Melanie, but I knew it would be hard to film. The character of Mel is so clear in the book and Wanderer is also sympathetic. When I read their voices, I never even hear them speaking with the same voice, so I am sure that would be weird to get used to...

I think I'll wait til the movie comes out on DVD before checking it out but I have a feeling it will be a disappointment. I definitely recommend the book though if anyone is intrigued by the story...