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April 6, 2013

MOVIE REVIEW: “The Host” offers new insight

Author Stephanie Meyer burst on the scene with her wildly popular “Twilight” series of novels, a saga humanizing vampires and werewolves.  Her next work of fiction took an innovative view on a traditional horror movie aspect as well: “The Host” is basically a recreation of “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”  But like “Twilight,” “The Host” reflects a different perspective than was previously seen. And like “Twilight,” it was a foregone conclusion that it would be turned into a movie.

When “The Host” opens, the world has already been taken over by an alien species. They call themselves Souls and announce that they don’t conquer worlds — they experience (and perfect) them by taking over a biological entity or host. One such Soul, called Wanderer, is placed into a human host (for that is the only physical existence a Soul can know) named Melanie. But Melanie is particularly strong-willed, and Wanderer is unable to completely supplant Melanie. Complicating matters, another Soul known as Seeker is pursuing the last remnant of humanity on Earth and suspects that Wanderer has not been successful in ousting the last vestige of humanity from her host. Seeker then uses Wanderer to locate the humans subsisting in the desert. But Wanderer finds herself bonding with the humans, and in a bizarre love triangle (that can only be imagined by Stephanie Meyer), Wanderer falls in love with one of the rebels, Ian, while Melanie still loves Jared. The two men spar over Wanderer/Melanie while Seeker closes in on them.

Saoirse Ronan (“Hanna”) plays the dichotomous Melanie/Wanderer with an appropriately confused look.  Writer-Director Andrew Niccol (“Lord of War”), who has injected more heart and feeling into “The Host” than any other director of a Stephanie Meyer novel, has devised a clever method of depicting the schizophrenic dialogue between the two: Melanie’s thoughts are heard in Wanderer’s head, while Wanderer’s thoughts are spoken aloud.

Diane Kruger (“Inglourious Basterds”) portrays the relentless Seeker. William Hurt (“Robin Hood”) is Jeb, the Godlike leader of the human rebels.  Max Irons (“Red Riding Hood”) and Jake Abel (“I Am Number Four”) play Jared and Ian, respectively, as earnest and testosterone laden young men.

“The Host” is not so much an action movie as a philosophical debate on what makes a human, what makes a soul, etc., and while the characters are pretty one dimensional, they are also allegorical, which adds a semblance of interest to an otherwise methodically-paced plodder. As previously mentioned, the character of Jeb is God. He renames Wanderer Wanda and holds absolute power over his domain, which is an underground haven in the desert, harnessing underground rivers and the reflective power of the sun to nourish his family. Seeker, as his nemesis, is therefore Satan, and in an odd twist, Wanda who is a duality (both human and Soul) is Christ, being tempted in the desert, being baptized in the underground stream, searching herself in the garden, and finally offering herself as a sacrifice after teaching the humans how not to kill.

So “The Host” has some interesting elements which can spark thought and debate. The perspective of the body-snatching alien is humanized, although not justified, which opens the philosophical discussion on whether compulsion to do good is still good.  Is killing a person of a different species still murder?  But basically I’ve come to the conclusion that Stephanie Meyers novels just don’t translate well to the big screen. “The Host,” like “Twilight” is introspective and intimate. It offers fresh perspectives.  And while it is thought provoking, it is not necessarily logical and too much thought can destroy its premise. Ultimately it is just not exciting.

2.0 Stars

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