The Host (2013)
Dir: Andrew Niccol
“Quick, Twilight is ending, let’s get this made to follow on straight from the success of that!”…
That’s how I can imagine this got pushed through production in the state that it has ended up, as a really mediocre and undercooked teen movie that made no impact at all.
In the not too distant future, planet Earth has been invaded by an alien race, who rather than simply wiping out the human population, merge with them by inserting an extraterrestrial consciousness known as a ‘Soul’, making use of the humans body and memories, but in effect killing their mind. Melanie (Saoirse Ronan), a teenage girl who is part of the dwindling human rebellion, is captured, and a soul called Wanderer is inserted into her, however Melanie fights against it, retaining some of her awareness, eventually taking her body and Wanderer home to the rebel hideout, where her boyfriend Jared (Max Irons) and friends (including William Hurt) are, but Wanderer has other thoughts. All the while, they are pursued by a ‘seeker’ (Diane Kruger) who is determined to crush the rebels.
A friend asked me if I knew the answers to many questions about it, such as “how do the souls work exactly?” and “where did they come from?” I don’t have a clue. There is so much that goes unexplained, and though I don’t expect or even encourage all questions being answered in films, sometimes a few of the major ones should be addressed. The problem with leaving gaping holes like that is the audience are most likely sat watching and distracted by their own minds pondering on things, either wondering when they will be explained, or working out their own hypotheses to explain it.
The use of Melanie’s internal voice is really odd, and though I’m sure it is okay in the book, and may even be an element that is necessary to be kept for the film, it ultimately doesn’t work. There were so many times through this that I wished she would just shut up. On top of that, what made it worse is that Melanie’s lines of dialogue were shockingly poor, they felt like a first attempt at scripting them, coming across as really juvenile at times, which clashed with the idea that this girl had been forced to mature and was pivotally important for the survival of the whole human race.
In contrast to how bad the internal voice works on film, the use of a change in a persons eyes when they are inhabited by a ‘soul’ works quite well indeed. It’s used as a clear indication in the storyline for people to identify who is alien and who is still human, and it does clearly show distinctively.
The director Andrew Niccol last made ‘In Time‘ which I watched at the start of the year. I really enjoyed that, sadly I didn’t really enjoy this. ‘In Time’ was packed with good action in places quite thrilling and exciting, but this is essentially dull throughout.
It’s no surprise that producers would want to make full use of Stephanie Meyer’s work when the ‘Twilight’ franchise proved to be so popular, but the only thing this really has in common with those stories is Meyer’s love of odd love triangles featuring at least one non-human entity! There’s one particular scene that’s I found really stupid, where Melanie/Wanderer has to kiss two different guys one after the other. It’s just an excuse for what teenage girls might mistakenly think is a steamy bit of romance.
Saoirse Ronan is good, but so much better than what she’s been given to work with here. I watched a Jonathon Ross (UK chat show host) interview with her three weeks after the UK release, when this was currently out in the cinemas, yet the interview made NO mention of it at all, just her next film ‘Byzantium’ which was still 5 weeks away from release.
A film making only $8 million profit is not usually seen as a terrible disaster, but being only 6 months after ‘Breaking Dawn – Part 2’ made over £800 million at the box office, it became a flop worth downplaying.