This has got to end.
We must stop Stephenie Meyer and her reign of terror in the YA world. If “The Twilight Saga” wasn’t enough for you, “The Host” will be the final straw. It is a film of absolutely no worth based on a book of absolutely no worth that was written by an author with no talent, and was directed by Andrew Niccol (“The Truman Show,” “Gattaca”), who, while talented, cannot salvage the utter worthlessness of the novel.
Melanie Stryder (Saoirse Ronan) lives in a world taken over by (supposedly) benevolent aliens called Souls that possess the bodies of humans to survive. Melanie nearly dies after falling out a very high window in an escape attempt (but her beauty isn’t tarnished, heaven forbid we have a heroine who isn’t absolutely beautiful) and somehow barely survives, allowing the Souls to implant one of their own into her.
The new Soul, stupidly named Wanderer, is shocked to discover that Melanie did not magically disappear after the implanting process, instead manifesting herself as a very silly voiceover. After a poorly plotted series of events, Melanie and Wanderer escape to a desert colony of surviving humans, where the plot stops so they can whine at each other over whether they should pick Bland Hunk #1 (Max Irons), who Melanie met while on the run, or Bland Hunk #2 (Jake Abel), who’s just conveniently there. Meanwhile, the eeeeevil Seeker (Diane Kruger) tries to hunt down Wanderer, for no other reason than she’s eeeeevil.
“The Host’s” biggest problem is that it has no clue what to do with the many ethical questions or interesting ideas it raises. The film either sidesteps them in cheap, easy ways or pretends they don’t exist, all the way up to an ending that will make you wonder if Meyer’s all right in the head.
For starters, there’s the idea of the aliens as benevolent rather than malevolent creatures. There is no reason why we should like the Souls (oh yes, we’re supposed to like Wanderer and her kind). They’re incredibly hypocritical and idiotic, not to mention the whole “enslaving the human race with no regard for their own autonomy” thing. “Oh, we don’t believe in violence. We’ll just mind-rape you into obedience, because that’s so much better. Clearly we are morally superior to you filthy humans.”
Speaking of rape, is it impossible for Meyer to write any kind of romance that doesn’t involve a bunch of horrible abusive overtones? Melanie’s first encounter with Bland Hunk #1 involves a very gross forced kiss that instantly turns into bland, dull romance, and when Wanderer and Bland Hunk #2 are slobbering over each other on a conveniently photogenic cliff, Bland Hunk #2 has the balls to ask if Melanie could “go into the other room” so he can make out with Wanderer, with Melanie internally protesting the whole way. And we’re supposed to think this is all very romantic, and that there’s nothing wrong with it.
F—k you, Meyer.
As for the characters and dialogue, they’re pretty standard for the Meyer-verse: paper-thin, contradictory a-holes who spout plastic nonsense that sounds absolutely nothing like how real people talk. Wanderer is supposed to be conflicted due to her loyalty to her race as well as wanting to respect Melanie, but she just comes across as stupid and selfish, veering ludicrously between being caring and insensitive before a vile turn into Martyr Land that will make you want to throw things at the screen. Meyer obviously didn’t like Melanie very much, because the film goes to great lengths to make her a huge bitch for absolutely no reason.
And that ain’t even touching the many, many plot holes: If the Souls are glowing amoeba-ish things that need a second party to implant them, how did the first Soul infect the first host? Why do the infected humans usually fade away after a Soul’s been implanted? How did the Souls manage to take over the world if they’re as resistant to using force as they say? Where the hell did the survivor’s accommodations (like electricity) come from? How the hell do the survivors have a wheat field in the middle of the desert? Never explained.
There aren’t even any technical merits here. Ronan is a fantastic actress, but her dialogue and character are so awful she has nothing to work with. Irons and Abel are hopelessly wooden, and Kruger may as well have a mustache to twirl for as subtle as she is. The setting is also the same generic, shiny all-white-everything future we’ve seen a million times. It’s like the future is ruled by Apple or something.
In conclusion, “The Host” is a failure on every conceivable level. It doesn’t even provide unintentional laughs: only a bottomless well of stupidity.
Speakeasy Grade: F-
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Max Irons, Jake Abel, Diane Kruger
Rated PG-13 for some sensuality and violence