In ‘The Host,’ a race of peaceful aliens has descended upon Earth to save the planet from destruction and save humans from extinction. Using humans as hosts, this alien species takes a living body and assumes control over its consciousness to build a society without violence, deception, or greed. Melanie Stryder is one of the last humans on Earth, and when this new breed of humans corners her for assimilation, she throws herself off a building as an escape.
With advanced technology, the benevolent aliens heal her as she clings to life, and they implant an alien soul within her. In her new host body, the soul wakes up and calls itself Wanderer, ready to begin life on this now-promising planet. Only Melanie’s still around, stubbornly taking residence in the back of Wanderer’s mind. She mocks the new race while trying to keep the whereabouts of her brother and boyfriend as secret as Wanderer searches her old memories.
I hesitate to admit that I enjoyed the book by Stephenie Meyer, which was her first foray into “adult” fiction. I read it five years ago, and for all her flaws — fixation on love triangles, tendency to dwell on the minutiae rather than the larger plot, relationships that harbor on abuse, and uncomfortable age gaps between lovers — the girl knows how to tell a story.
I’ve mentioned this in other reviews, but writer Melissa Rosenberg was one of the best things to happen to ‘Twilight,’ as she was able to adapt the everyday drudgery that comes with a high school tale into something self-aware in its cheesiness, while being simultaneously romantic and action-packed. I was hoping writer/director Andrew Niccol (‘In Time,’ ‘Gattaca’) could do the same, but I’m sorry to say this attempt fell short.
True to Niccol’s style, the film was beautifully shot. The world-building was a full package of sleek scenery, costumes, and vehicles that left you wanting more, in a good way. Tight shots of varying focal lengths and heart-filled flashbacks were only made more emotional by the sensational acting range of Saoirse Ronan (‘The Lovely Bones,’ ‘City of Ember’).
But what this film had in acting talent and visual artistry, it lacked in pacing and urgency. The sections that were meant to be romantic felt cheesy, packed with grandiose proclamations that would have rolled eyes in ‘Gone With the Wind.’
I suppose there are some things you take for granted when reading a book that includes a character trapped within the mind of another. Long inner-dialogues make a bit more sense on the page, and the humor and tension that can come from two consciousnesses in one body who fall in love with two separate people simply dissipates onscreen into a character whose fate you don’t know which way to root for.
It’s difficult for me to rank something so low that has such a beautiful world and talented actors, but I believe it was possible to translate the emotional turmoil of betraying your race, being caught in a zero-sum love triangle, and displaying the courage necessary to stand up to both sides of an alien takeover and emerge victorious. The writing just wasn’t there to fill up the vessel.
How Well the Movie Portrayed the Book: