ased on Stephenie Meyer’s first novel post-Twilight, The Host tells us the story of a time in the near future when the earth and its inhabitants have been have been taken over by a parasitic race of alien life that calls themselves Souls. When they are implanted, these Souls completely take control of the human body, thereby eradicating all traces of a previous identity. Seekers travel the globe, capturing all living humans so that they can be implanted with Souls. Since coming to earth, the Souls have eliminated poverty, war, disease and pollution and in its place have created an idyllic and symbiotic society. Only small pockets of human resistance remain to fight against the Souls and it seems like only a matter of time before the world is totally assimilated.
Melanie Stryder is a member of the human resistance, who is captured and implanted with a Soul named Wanderer, but unlike the others, Melanie is able to maintain part of her identity and she is able to fight Wanderer for control of herself. With the Seekers in hot pursuit, Melanie leads Wanderer back to resistance headquarters so that she can see her brother and boyfriend again. Once there, the humans don’t know whether or not they can trust her, or if they should kill her on the spot.
I went into this movie without particularly high expectations, seeing as how I didn’t enjoy Beautiful Creatures very much and I thought this would have very similar YA novel romantic themes. I was pleasantly surprised by how well done this was. The Host is, in many ways, a one-woman show because of how much of the story takes place inside Melanie/Wanderer’s head and Saoirse Ronan gives a very mature and poignant performance in the lead role. Director Andrew Niccol loaded this movie with gorgeous visuals and even the scenes which are ostensibly set in a cave are filled with a very lively balance of light and shade. There is a love triangle introduced about halfway through The Host (this seems like it is becoming a staple of Stephenie Meyer’s work), which shouldn’t work, but it does. Jared, played by Max Irons (a young Simon Bakerlookalike) was Melanie’s boyfriend and he has a difficult time believing that any part of her has survived her infestation. Irons imbues Jared with a heartbroken longing that we can really see in his eyes every time he looks at Melanie/Wanderer. Jake Abel’s portrayal of Ian, who never knew Melanie before and falls in love with her as Wanderer, was also very noteworthy. I thought Abel was a real standout in this movie and I hope it leads to big things for him. The Host has a few well-done action sequences, but it is mostly a story about what gives someone their humanity. Overall, while it was a little bit too talky at times, I liked this movie. B+
The cinematography was as gorgeous as Scott so elegantly described above. As a whole I have very few complaints about the acting, Saoirse Ronan, did an excellent job embodying two very different characters without making the performance seem schizophrenic. I also really appreciated the performance from Diana Kruger. She played one of the Seekers that begins to lose control and I liked the subtle nuance Diana brought to the role.
I was surprised by the storytelling in this movie. I had expected the movie to start with the love story and then detail Melanie's capture. However, the movie starts with Melanie's capture and the implantation of the Soul. We only learn of her love affair with Jared through her memories. I found that by telling the story this way I didn't connect as strongly with Melanie's character. I also had a hard time with the pacing of the movie, it was very slow and deliberate. Every conversation felt heavy. I wanted to like it more than I did, perhaps if I had read the book I would have found the movie more satisfying--but as a whole I was left wanting. B-