I’m not a fan of Stephenie Meyer but I do like science fiction. After the Twilight debacle, my friend assured me that The Host was much better. And it did seem to be at first. Invasion of the Body Snatchers as a romance is at least an interesting (and somewhat original) idea. I read about thirty pages and then got bored – mostly she just sat around talking to herself in her head. So when I heard there was a movie, I had to see it just to find out how they could make it work.
An alien consciousness implanted in a struggling human girl comes to value humans for themselves rather than as vessels.
The surprising thing about The Host for me was that it did mostly work. It’s still a Stephenie Meyer story though, so most of it’s about LURV and how LURV is the answer to everything. But it wasn’t horrible like Twilight thanks to the fact that the actors could act, which saved a lot of otherwise dopey scenes.
The movie begins with the capture of Melanie Stryder (Saoirse Ronan) by alien body-snatchers who call themselves ‘souls’. They’re little glowy silver parasites that attach themselves to your spinal column and take over your body, but FOR THE GOOD OF HUMANITY because we’re all lying murdering polluters or whatever. Melanie is one of the last surviving humans of the ‘resistance’ (which in Stephenie Meyer terms means ‘people who hide and don’t actually fight back’). She tries to kill herself rather than have her memories of her family captured, but it doesn’t work.
Wanderer (also Saoirse Ronan) gets the unenviable task of taking over Melanie, who is still in there and making snarky comments in a disembodied voice at everything Wanderer does. This is how they managed to adapt a book that’s 90% two people arguing in one brain: voice over. The camera always zooms in on Melanie/Wanderer’s face when they’re talking, so I guess everyone else just stands around waiting for her to finish up before they get on with the rest of the scene.
MELANIE: It’s my body! Miiiiiine!
WANDERER: Ha ha it’s mine now, sucka!
EVERYONE ELSE: Who the f*** are you talking to??
Wanderer is supposed to be helping the Seeker (Diane Kruger) track down and assimilate Melanie’s family. The Seeker’s your typical Stephenie Meyer evil villain – she only shows up for a few scenes and is for some convoluted reason obsessed with a teenaged girl who is not really special or interesting.
SEEKER: I must find her! I will never stop! I will walk to the edge of the earth!
OTHER SEEKER: You know, we should really spend more time actually driving our awesome cars.
The problem is that as Wanderer unlocks more of Melanie’s memories (seen in flashback) she comes to value Melanie’s boyfriend Jared (Max Irons) and little brother Jamie (Chandler Canterbury), so much so that she starts listening to Melanie, who in the boneheaded move of the century leads the aliens right to the family she’s trying to protect.
I brought you a present: it’s a hundred aliens who want you for your body.
Melanie/Wanderer is/are found by Melanie’s uncle, whose name I can’t really remember, so I will just refer to him as UNCLE SHOTGUN (William Hurt) because he always carries a shotgun around and threatens to blast people with it. Uncle Shotgun is the head of a small colony of wheat farmers living inside a conveniently appointed mesa. If it sounds like it would be hard to survive in the desert like that, the movie would like you to know that it’s not really.
Naw, we just grow like three wheat plants a year and we’re all set!
Uncle Shotgun’s really a philosopher, not a fighter, though, because within a few minutes of her capture, everyone’s mostly cool with Wanderer (who starts going by Wanda, presumably to fit in) hanging around in someone else’s body. My fan friend assures me that they spend a lot more time beating her up in the book (which is about a million pages long) but the movie (quite rightly) feels like it needs to move on and get to the real point: THE LURV TRIANGLE.
BOYFRIEND #1: It’s my turn to make out with her, douchebag!
BOYFRIEND #2: Nuh uh, it’s Tuesday. Tuesday’s my day.
You see, this whole alien thing is really just an excuse for Stephenie Meyer to write another one of her famous love triangles. That is: love triangles that aren’t REALLY love triangles. In Twilight it’s not really a love triangle because wolfy Jacob is actually in love with Bella’s hypothetical future child (I know, right?) and in The Host it’s not really a love triangle because there’s one boyfriend for each brain: Ian (Jake Abel) for Wanderer and Jared (Max Irons) for Melanie. The fact that the boys look the same from the back just makes it that much more weird and confusing.
Wait, which boyfriend is this again?
Because this is a Stephenie Meyer story, conflict must be avoided and everything must work out to be perfectly perfect for everyone. Meaning the main characters spend most of their time hiding until the Seeker subplot is resolved in a hilariously abrupt and easy showdown and then everyone gets what they want (or rather, who). There’s really only one way it could go in a story like this, but I won’t tell you what it is in case you’re actively trying not to have the completely obvious ending spoiled for you.
And then everyone swallows a bullet. The end!
I’ve spent most of this review trashing The Host, but despite all its flaws I was never put off enough to want to stop watching. There were enough cool laser effects and shiny things for it to look interesting. The actors were also skilled enough that even with the dopey lines and the overwrought string music in the background, I didn’t dislike any of the characters. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not going to run off and read the book because I’m so desperate to hear more – but I don’t feel like I wasted my money, either. So there you go – it IS possible to like this movie even if you’re not a Twilight fan.