Mark Reviews Movies

The Host (2013)

THE HOST (2013)

1 ½ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Andrew Niccol

Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Max Irons, Diane Kruger, Jake Abel, Chandler Canterbury, William Hurt, Boyd Holbrook, Frances Fisher, Scott Lawrence

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for some sensuality and violence)

Running Time: 2:05

Release Date: 3/29/13

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Review by Mark Dujsik | March 28, 2013

For those of us who fail to see the dramatic tension of a 1,000-year-old alien in the form of a young woman talking out loud to the internal monologue of that young woman trapped in the recesses of the consciousness of her presently occupied-by-an-alien body, this movie is an oddity. For those of us who find humor in a romantic triangle in which one of the points is occupied by two characters in one body, this movie is an absurdity. For those of us who question the validity of a slap to the face as an appropriate way to introduce characters and conflicts (The trend eventually prompts a character to say, "Kiss me like you want to be slapped"), this movie is a target of obvious ridicule. In short, The Host is just silly.

At some point in the future, the Earth is at peace but at the cost of humanity. We've screwed up things so badly that an alien force has noticed and decided to take matters into their own tiny, glowing tentacles. At the height of the reign of this species (called all sorts of names throughout the movie but at the last minute dubbed "Souls"), there are small pockets of human resistance. One member of that group is Melanie (Saoirse Ronan), who, at the start of the movie, is trying to evade capture by a team of "Seekers" led by the Seeker (Diane Kruger). Instead of being caught, Melanie opts to jump out a window.

Although she has broken nearly every bone and ruptured every organ in her body, the aliens heal her (There are also "Healers;" despite their vast knowledge of the universe, these aliens aren't very imaginative in the creation of titles), make a small cut in her neck, and open a metallic egg to reveal the creature that will occupy her body—a small being that fits in the palm of one's hand and radiates a pure, snowy white light. This alien calls itself "Wanderer" for a reason that, like the other names the aliens give themselves, is self-explanatory.

The Seeker wants information about other humans Melanie may have known so that they might find them as well. An alien in possession of a human body has access to its memories, but it also has to deal with the fact that the consciousness of the previous occupant is constantly blathering in its brain. The effect of Wanderer talking aloud to Melanie's echo-chamber voiceover rarely fails to be comical. Melanie doesn't want Wanderer to give up information about her brother Jamie (Chandler Canterbury) and her boyfriend Jared (Max Irons).

What follows is a seemingly endless string of expository dialogue exchanges and flashbacks (including the first instance of a slap across the face eventually leading to a deeper understanding between two characters—after Jared forces himself on Melanie during their first meeting—and an awkward scene that attempts to romanticize Jared's insistence that he wouldn't make Melanie feel entitled to have sex with him even if they were the last man and woman on Earth). Eventually, Wanderer/Melanie ends up with the resistance, which is living in a volcano and led by Melanie's uncle (William Hurt). Melanie tries to reconnect with Jared and Jamie (after telling Wanderer not to tell anyone she's still present for fear that they'll think she's lying—a rationale that has no logical basis), and Wanderer learns about "love" by locking eyes with Ian (Jake Abel), who had previously tried to kill her, and lying to protect his brother (Boyd Holbrook) when he tries to kill her, too.

The shame of it is that there is a solid idea or two about the symbiotic relationship between humanity and the aliens hovering around when the screenplay by writer/director Andrew Niccol (based on the novel by Stephanie Meyer) temporarily drops its silliest trappings. There's a section of the movie that abandons its hackneyed romances and roundabout chases to force us to confront a potential conflict of sympathies for the well-intentioned aliens and flawed human beings, for whom we have an obvious and engrained affinity. It wonders what the point of fighting for the survival of humanity is if the answer lies in the decimation of an entire species that has learned and accomplished more—even if through questionable means—than we could ever hope.

Alas, whatever philosophical lines of thought are present here are lost to more melodramatic and embarrassing declarations of love, some gobbledygook about forgiveness, and at least two dei ex machina too many in order to wrap everything in a neat, tidy bow. The Host is a strange and ineffective beast, indeed.

Copyright © 2013 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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