In defense of The Host – a review!
As y’all might be aware, I don’t have guilty pleasures – especially not when it comes to books, tv or films. No matter how shite it might be; I’ve always owned up to my love for the daft, the ridiculous and the embarrassing, regardless of the social cost.
Heck, I went to see Queen of the Damned TWICE at the cinema.
Yes, I paid twice to watch Aaliyah in this camp gothic fantasy bastard offspring of an over-rated-book-that-I-couldn’t-really-get-into-despite-my-love-of-vampires.
And I dragged a friend with me.
The same friend.
A film so bad that, quite frankly, it’s a travesty of a legacy to be remembered for (additionally painful after Aaliyah was so epic in Romeo Must Die – not a brilliant film, though I quite enjoyed – but far better than this turgid mess). Nevertheless, I love it.
So I’m doubly mortified to admit that – for a moment – I almost wasn’t going to admit to my new found love of The Host.
After all of my ranting and raving about Twishite – and I’ve been thorough over the years; reading all of the books and watching all of the films in order to bitch about them with a greater degree of accuracy and therefore venom – it does feel a little like karmic retribution that I’ve fallen so completely for a tale written by the same author – Stephenie Meyer.
In my defense I really didn’t intend too. In fact, my judgmental* little soul isn’t afraid to admit that I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it at all had I been aware of its origins…
It all began…
Last week, I started flicking through the films on our telly-box searching for a mooovie to watch. Indulging my laziness, I decided against looking each film up on t’interweb and instead started working my way through the free samples. At some point, I stuck on The Host and was enthralled! Not only did I know that I was destined to watch it this weekend, but I figured that I should probably get my fella involved too. Because I’m just that nice.
What if everything you love was taken from you in the blink of an eye? “The Host” is the next epic love story from the creator of the “Twilight Saga,” worldwide bestselling author, Stephenie Meyer. When an unseen enemy threatens mankind by taking over their bodies and erasing their memories, Melanie Stryder (Saoirse Ronan) will risk everything to protect the people she cares most about – Jared (Max Irons), Ian (Jake Abel), her brother Jamie (Chandler Canterbury) and her Uncle Jeb (William Hurt) , proving that love can conquer all in a dangerous new world.
Sounds deeply yawnsville right? Just as well I hadn’t looked it up before sticking it on.
Saoirse Ronan plays Melanie, who is taken in the opening minutes as a Host for Wanderer – a thousand year old alien Soul. Unlike the other humans, who were quickly destroyed during the takeover process, Melanie’s consciousness fights to regain control of her body and prevent Wanderer from revealing the identities and whereabouts of her family and friends – as far as she knows – the last vestiges of human civilisation.
Wanderer – a quiet and subtle (often deeply drippy) individual is surprised to find herself connecting so strongly with her host. At first she resists Melanie’s influence, determined to attain the peace and harmony her people believe they bring to each world they take over. Eventually, she decides to try and help Mel determine whether her little brother (Jamie) and boyfriend (Jared) are still alive. The intrepid duo strike out into the desert and are conveniently picked up by Melanie’s uncle – Jeb – just as they are about to collapse. He is deeply disconcerted about having an alien in his niece’s body and goes against his own rules (and his sister), keeping Wanderer alive.
Wanderer/Melanie is shunned, distrusted and beaten by the surviving human population – whom number far more than either had suspected. They quickly decide to keep Mel’s survival hidden – though Jed and Jamie are rather quickly let in on the secret. Jared and his friends – particularly brothers Kyle and Ian – are less easily impressed and violently lash out until the tables unexpectedly turn. Wanda – as she has been nicknamed – chooses to lie and save Kyle from exile. Ian’s interest is piqued and he begins to get to know Wanda better.
In the meantime, a Seeker alien has begun obsessively searching for Wanda – suspecting that Melanie is still alive and influencing events. She has conflated this one person into a representation of human resistance and is determined to track it down and wipe it out. This leads to a tragic encounter between the scavenging human scouts and the aliens. When Jared returns – down two friends – he is furious to see Wanda – in HIS girlfriends body – bonding with some members of the survivor community. He isn’t well pleased by Ian acting all possessive either and warns his new romantic rival to stay well away from both Wanda AND Melanie.
That’s the basic set up and it’s done really well. All the alien stuff is white and flashy and mirror-y – a visual image that suits perfectly the blue skies and white sands of New Mexico. Even the souls fit into the colour scheme – all white and glowing. The characters – not the fleshiest to ever grace the screen I grant you – quickly fall into their prescribed roles, but behave in nicely predictable and unexpected ways that kept us hooked even after we figured out what was likely to happen. Mel never really felt like she came across strongly enough as the voice in Wanda’s head. Which pushed far too much pressure onto the flashbacks scenes – meaning you never really connected with either her as a character or her romance with Jared. However, the three leads manage to avoid the pugnacious cheese and by playing it straight even pull off the really dire dialogue – it’s twishite bad by the way, not new Star Wars bad. *SHUDDER*
At a certain point, though, this does become a fairly teenage triangle (albeit one with four sides) and thankfully the set pieces are grand enough that we could ignore and enjoy the backdrop. Like all the shops being called Store – so while Mel tried to sabotage Ian and Wanda, while pining over the disturbingly attentive Jared – himself and I debated on this lack of imagination in the aliens, leading to a fun ten minutes of speculation about life on other planets, how the aliens all dressed like a French catalog and whether or not they knew their planet looked like an apple shop. Which was great.
|THE SEEKERS SOUL|
Mostly, I just loved the SF of it all. It’s of the proper old fashioned variety – with body snatching and alien invasions played off against good old fashion human ingenuity – with the desire to survive battling against the survivors need to retain their humanity. Very little of the alien technology is explained or explored in any sort of detail, resulting in the little we do see having more impact.
|NOT THE SOLE REASON TO WATCH
NOT AT ALL
Oh. And Jake Abel and Max Irons are not unfortunate looking at all (and it’s age appropriate perving. I did check. I’m good like that). Far too few topless scenes there, but enough smoulder to remind me of Spike and Buffy and Logan and Veronica…so a plus for me! Actually, while I think this might be the first time that I’ve seen Max (son of etch etc) Irons on screen; Jake Abel has been cropping up with more and more frequency. I’m looking forward to seeing if he can break away from the teen heart-throb into slightly more serious films.
If you haven’t been put off thus far, here’s the trailer to really do you in!
*Why are people so afraid to be judgmental nowadays?
You couldn’t get through a single social intervention without applying it in some form or another.
Society wouldn’t have a set of (mostly) mutually agreed upon social conditions in place without it.
I’m officially a fan of judgment. Go Team Judgement.