2013 - 125 minutes
Directed by: Andrew Niccol
Written by: Andrew Niccol
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, William Hurt, Diane Kruger, Max Irons, Jake Abel
I have not read the book The Host is based on, all I can speak on is the terrible film it has inspired. Here we have a film that includes alien “souls” using human bodies as vessels to provide them with…I’m not sure what. Why do they need or want bodies anyway? You’d think with their advanced level of consciousness and having lived millennia, a frail human body that needs constant maintenance would be more of a hindrance. At least, I suppose, these Souls have somehow developed a magic spray they keep in designer cologne bottles that heals any injury to their new forms. So that’s nice for them.
And just how did these Souls first invade and start taking over the human race? It wasn’t by force as they constantly speak of their benevolence and it doesn’t appear there was a war that scarred the earth. And, from what we’re shown, it looks like each soul needs help to be implanted into their new host. So how exactly were we overrun by these peaceful glowing balls of light?
There are huge leaps in logic that are never addressed, but assume we go with the weak theory we are given. Maybe if the film used its preposterous setup to make a meaningful commentary on humanity the film would be partially redeemable. Alas, and of course, that’s not the case. The rickety framework is used as setup for a weak love triangle (quadrangle?) between a teenage human host, her parasitic “Soul” and two human guys who are virtually indistinguishable. Maybe if author Stephanie Meyer, who also wrote the wildly popular Twilight series, had made one of these guys a vampire and one a werewolf they’d be easier to tell apart.
Saoirse Ronan is an extremely talented young actress, and I felt bad for her while watching this film. She tries admirably, but her acting ability is completely undermined. Ronan plays Melanie Stryder, a teenager captured by the conquering beings early in the film, then inhabited by the soul “Wanderer” (what great names). For the duration of the film this new being has a constant dialogue with itself – Wanderer acting and speaking as the physical person, with the unseen Melanie providing an inner monologue as her essence is trapped within her own body. I’m not kidding. The literal act of speaking with basically another version of herself robs Ronan of the ability to put forth any semblance of a nuanced performance and it was painful to watch. Every word they speak to each other is on-the-nose.
There is absolutely nothing of interest explored with the humans as vessels construct. At one point we see a row of alien-occupied humans sitting in an office-like setting staring blankly at their computers; and then later we see these beings shopping at a store called “Store” with completely generic brands filling the shelves. Is this a statement on us being slaves to our soulless jobs and helpless against the marketing machine? I don’t think so - this is just background noise to push forward the completely bland story of this teen girl as needed. There is no real tension or dramatic developments moving things along.
Potential, though wasted, was there in the underground caves where humans led by Melanie’s uncle Jeb (William Hurt) hideout to avoid occupation. I liked the solar panels they used to grow crops underground – an interesting idea and visual. Then there is the dilemma of what to do with Melanie/Wanderer (who they begin to call Wanda) when she arrives. Is this still their niece/sister/fellow human or has it now changed? But, again, this is all handled with the being talking to itself while the two potential suitors alternate between hating her and kissing her.
Watching this girl/soul talk to itself with such banality for two-plus hours was painful. If a voice inside of your head is telling you to see this movie, ignore it.