By Issa Perez de Tagle
The Host (2013)
D: Andrew Niccol
S: Saoirse Ronan, Max Irons, Jake Abel and Diane Kruger
“The earth is at peace. There are no wars. There is no hunger. Honesty, courtesy and kindness are practiced by all. The world has never been more perfect. It is no longer your world.”
The battle for the planet Earth is over and we have lost. Our bodies have been taken over by alien souls and there are only small, almost irrelevant pockets of resistance left. Melanie Stryder (Saoirse Ronan) is one of those few and now she’s been captured. Everything she has lived to protect is in jeopardy and she is not going down without a fight. She refuses to disappear from the mind of Wanderer — her body’s new occupant. Using her humanity to her advantage, she turns Wanderer into an unlikely ally in the war for our planet’s future.
I will be honest and say that I did read the book this was based on and I actually didn’t think it was half bad. Now before everyone attacks me with Stephenie-Meyer-hate, I would like to point out that her corn-syrupy writing does not totally obscure the fact that it has quite the mature premise. This is not a story about how some girl becomes suicidal after her boyfriend leaves her.
It’s a story about the will to survive and the complexity of human bonds. It even calls into question man’s very ability to attain utopia. So many fascinating questions come to light with this one topic. What is perfection? Is it achievable? If not, then why is it still so important? What is human nature? Are we inherently good or evil? Are we simply blank canvases?
That being said, the fact that it’s still written by Stephenie Meyer and “not half bad” does not mean a masterpiece. So if there was ever a time that I wish a director had taken more creative license in a book-to-film adaptation, this would have been it. I had great faith that Niccol was the right man for the job since he brought to life the thought-provoking science fiction movie Gattaca and got the genre out of the distant corners of the universe, into our own near and plausible futures. He also has a knack for zero-ing in on our society’s superficial pitfalls, making us face them in ways both brilliantly disturbing and glaringly honest as in the films S1m0ne and The Truman Show.
The Host, however, doesn’t seem like it was made by that same visionary director. Niccol’s talent for creating a believable futuristic world seems almost absent in this movie. All the chrome, white suits and cartoon-ish sets come off forced and underdeveloped.
Not very much happens in terms of action but it manages to give you the feeling that it was rushed. The pacing and the editing were poorly executed, making it seem episodic, like something The CW is about to cancel.
But I think the saddest part is that its premise, which held so much potential, was almost completely ignored. This could have been so much more than just tween fluff. Hell, even the love…square, romance between four people and three bodies would have been really interesting if done correctly. But the characters were all flat despite them having boatloads of time to talk since 99.9% of this film is them just shacking it up in a cave.
Which wouldn’t necessarily have been a bad thing if the dialogue was at all good. I’d like to blame Meyer for this but Niccol actually wrote the script. I have no idea how it could’ve possibly turned out any worse. The disembodied voice of Melanie was just awkward to me. It somehow worked in the novel but on film there were definitely times wherein I couldn’t decide whether to cringe or burst out laughing.
A shame since I thought it was a waste of Ronan’s talents. Given what she had, she performed credibly, lending a distinct voice to both characters she was portraying. Kruger was also surprisingly captivating. Which makes me wish they had given her something more interesting to do. I believe she had a struggle that was worth a little more exposure.
The Host is a disappointment. It could’ve been Stephenie Meyer’s ticket to gain some actual respect and for Andrew Niccol to prove he wasn’t the next M. Night Shyamalan. But all we have is Twilight: Chrome Version.