Title: The Host
Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Romance
Director(s): Andrew Niccol
Release Year: 2013
Moving slightly away from the romantic main plots for which we’ve come to know Stephenie Meyer, The Host delivers a politically-charged science fiction film, that still manages to get muddled up by complicated relationships. Meandering from scene to scene, pushing the runtime to an excruciating 125 minutes, Andrew Niccol manages to craft a world that one could get lost in. The unfortunate reality is that the script is so stilted and shallow that it is really hard to get into a world that is blocked off by inane dialogue and sub-par acting from most of its cast. Whatever political message the film might be trying to send about communism and rebellions, is lost in the romantic ramblings that plagued the Twilight series, and will seemingly plague all of Stephenie Meyer’s work for the foreseeable future.
There’s an interesting premise to be found in The Host: alien parasites come to Earth and take control of human bodies, erasing their memories, and hoping to improve the planet, but not change it. From their point of view, they are the heroes, saving the planet from those who are destroying it. The way they go about doing it though (killing a human’s soul and memories, replacing it with their own) is unorthodox, despite their noble intentions. Thus a resistance of humans is born and fights to save their planet from the aliens that seem to have world domination on their minds. Among this rebellion of humans is Melanie Stryder (Saoirse Ronan) who is nearly dead when the parasitic alien enters her body, known only as Wanderer. Melanie resists Wanderer’s attempts to take full control of her body. Retaining her memories, Melanie is able to convince Wanderer not to give up the location of the rest of the surviving humans to The Seeker (Diane Kruger), and eventually Melanie guides Wanderer to them.
It was about the point when Melanie began providing her own commentary to Wanderer’s actions that I checked out from The Host. The film’s themes on communism and society were barricaded by the ramblings of a teenage girl, worried more about who Wanderer fell in love with than whether The Seeker knows where they are hiding. Finding herself having to stop Wanderer from falling in love with Ian (Jake Abel), and still trying to salvage what’s left of her own relationship with Jared (Max Irons), Melanie struggles to have complete control of her own body, so long as Wanderer is still in there. In fits of emotional intensity though, she can take control for that brief moment when catching Wanderer off guard. When she can’t, the audience is treated to stilted one-liners, intended to be humorous I’m sure, but result in extremely cheesy situations that serve no purpose but to let everyone know that Melanie is still not happy about being prisoner in her own body.
The major problem is that The Host has to keep putting new plot points into the film so as to hit a lengthier run-time, most of which have no bearing on anything. Not surprisingly, the complicated relationships of Wanderer and Melinda are the focal point of the movie, but there is also the fact that The Seeker is trying to hunt down Wanderer. Then she becomes so obsessed with hunting down Wanderer that she justifies murder, which goes against the very nature of the peaceful aliens. The film decides to cut back to The Seeker every now and then, but most of the time we’re treated to the relationship plot, or seeing how the rest of the humans learn to cope with an alien living among them. Then there’s some pointless thread about Melanie’s brother Jamie (Chandler Canterbury) being a complete idiot and accidentally cutting himself with a sickle (or maybe his uncle shouldn’t have let him use a sickle in the first place).
The sickles had to be in the scenes with farming though, because how else could you draw the parallels to communism without using the most symbolic image for the ideology? However, because of this, the movie does have some nice shots thanks to Roberto Schaefer, most of which are because of the shiny cars that the aliens drive, or glow worms that have colonized within the cavern where the surviving humans reside. Small elements such as this help build the world, and the ideas presented are fairly weighty. The notion of cohabitation is explored throughout The Host, with this idea of aliens living among humans, just as humans live among nature.
The thing I most appreciated about The Host is that it doesn’t get bogged down by trying to explain science fiction elements, or showing how exactly the aliens have improved upon Earth’s pre-existing infrastructure. There’s a store, simply called “Store.” It sells everything, not just groceries. There doesn’t seem to be any form of currency, because the aliens are already under the mentality to take what they need and only what they need. There’s a medicine that seals and disinfects wounds with just the spray of a bottle. All of these elements amount to a wonderful world that could have been something had there not been such a confusion on what narrative to focus on.
The Host is one of the best examples of a poorly directed film, not really knowing where it’s going except that it wants to have a sequel. The problems with looking forward is that you’re not really aware of what’s happening right now. Everything feels rushed, except the scenes with the rest of the colony, which happen to be the scenes that are the most unnecessary. The romances all feel so by-the-numbers, and it’s really hard to get attached to Melanie’s plight when the movie pretty much begins with her body being taken hostage by Wanderer. Not to mention, The Seeker seems to be going through some moral dilemmas as well, but the movie barely touches upon them. The promise was there, with themes that aren’t usually explored in most blockbuster films of this caliber, and a world that manages to feel both grounded and alien to the audience. Unfortunately, there’s no clear focus on any one narrative strand, leading to an ultimately unsatisfying film that squanders a decent cast.