Twilight fans will love The Host. Not because it is in anyway an enjoyable movie, but rather because its release means the Twilight films are no longer the worst films to come from something Stephenie Meyer has written. In fact, I’d go as far to say Twilight could be considered an American classic in comparison, considering The Host likely will be completely forgotten by the end of the year, and rightfully so.
The film is so rigid from start to finish, it feels as if writer/director Andrew Niccol was working on the film after he had been infected by one of the alien parasites that the story deals with. Either that or he has such a disdain for his audience that he felt the need to dumb everything down to a level that would be comprehensible for someone stepping into the movie for five minutes instead of watching from start to finish. Perhaps he knew that most viewers wouldn’t be up for sitting through two hours of this film in a row. For a director that I’m usually a very big fan of, The Host serves as an extremely disappointing deviation from his usual quality work.
The film starts with Earth after it has been taken over by an alien parasite species called “souls” that inhabit humans and take over their bodies. Over 99% of Earth has been inhabited, but there are still small pockets of resistant humans. One human, Melanie, is captured and implanted with a soul called Wanderer. Melanie doesn’t give up without a fight though, refusing to let Wanderer, or Wanda, completely take over, causing the two of them to co-inhabit one body and fight for control of it as Melanie attempts to reunite with her brother and her boyfriend. In the process, Wanda sees that humans have thoughts and feelings and begins to empathize with them.
While there are countless problems with the story, the most glaring is the gaping holes in the plot and the way the story forcibly attempts to move from start to finish by jumping over those holes. In the process of leaving hundreds of questions completely unaddressed, the film awkwardly answers what it does in the most blatant way possible.
Every single somewhat important plot point has to be shown, addressed in dialogue, shown again, and then for good measure, explained again by Melanie’s off-screen narration. The significant events that get characters out of trouble usually amount to no more than coincidence, and a film driven by coincidence typically ends up being horribly unsatisfying.
The best and most obvious solutions to every predicament get dismissed by merely saying that they wouldn’t work, without any explanation or reason why. Melanie constantly rejects every single idea that Wanda has in this fashion, making it appear that the only way to get the movie to last two hours is for the characters to sabotage themselves.
On the note of Melanie’s thoughts chiming in every five seconds, it’s excruciating having to listen to that girl have conversations with herself for half the film. If those conversations added anything to the story, then yes, they could be tolerable, but as is, more than half of the lines Melanie says are just the simplest interjections imaginable. It’s never necessary to have a character repeat lines such as “no” or “yes” or “listen” over and over again, and that certainly isn’t what anyone goes to a movie to see.
On account of the horrible script the actors had to deal with, it almost feels unfair to even comment on the quality of the acting in the film, but I’m going to do it anyway. Nearly every performance seems forced in the worst way possible. The scenes of love or intimacy are handled in such a way that they come off as laughable. At no point is there any reason to believe any of the characters like each other, let alone have romantic feelings, and if they can’t even like each other, then how is the audience supposed to have anyone that they can root for?
The only character that isn’t worthy of being completely loathed is the uncle, Jeb, and the small amount of likability his character has is due to William Hurt’s excellent performance. It’s amazing that he joined the film in the first place, and I can just picture him wearing a disguise for the next couple months hoping everyone forgets seeing him in such a disgraceful film.
The production choices are no better than the story or the acting. It’s like the filmmakers wanted to prove there was an alien invasion by covering everything in chrome and that’s it. Sci-fi is a chance to create an entire new world. The possibilities are endless. Instead they opted for a bit of shiny metal. The cave where much of the film takes place looks more like something made out of plaster from a 5th grade science project than actual rock. The only thing about the film that I actually enjoyed is the Lotus Evora that the Seeker drives. And that’s just because it’s an awesome car. When a car is the highlight of a film not about driving or cars, there really isn’t much more that needs to be said.
To call The Host a sci-fi film is a lie. The sci-fi elements are hardly touched on, and rather we get a sorry attempt at a romance. For a film where the main character is occupied by one of the alien parasites, there’s an incredible lack of information given about the aliens’ past, their motives, and how they function, which are all things that would greatly enhance the film. As it stands, we’re left with a completely mindless film, but not mindless in a fun way like one could say about the Twilight Saga. No, it’s mindless in a way that makes it an immensely dull movie that’s almost impossible to sit through without dozing off.
Please, for your own sake, do not go see The Host. If you think the story sounds interesting, you’d be better off taking your ten dollars and buying the book. Not because the book is probably any better, but because you can put down the book and never have to suffer through the story again without looking as much like a jerk as you do walking out of a theatre halfway through a film.