*1/2 (out of 5)
March 29, 2013
Saoirse Ronan as MELANIE/WANDA
Diane Kruger as THE SEEKER
Jake Abel as IAN O’SHEA
Max Irons as JARED HOWE
William Hurt as JEB STRYDER
Studio: Open Road
Directed by: Andrew Niccol
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
“The Host” makes me feel like a parent whose child was in all the gifted programs when they were younger only to discover that child is a cashier at a gas station in his 40s. It’s not that I expected “The Host” to be any good. After all, with Stephenie Meyer at the writing helm, there was little chance of that.
Here’s what we’ve got, in terms of plot: “The Host” takes place in a not-to-distant future when aliens have come to Earth and taken over the physical bodies of the humans. Few true humans are left, and one of the last survivors Melanie (Saoirse Ronan) is implanted with one of these souls. The aliens try to use her to discover the last remaining humans, but Melanie bonds with her symbiote, and they escape to find her family.
The frustrating thing is that “The Host” isn’t all rotten, or at least the kernel of the idea isn’t rotten. In fact, the story has amazing potential, but it’s squandered by shoddy writing, forgettable characters and painfully dull plotting. In fact, the original idea is a classic. It’s just another approach to “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” which was brilliantly done in novel form and as two early films.
However, where “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” tapped into some chilling facets of the story while telling a sharp allegory of political distrust, “The Host” plays out like something an eleven-year-old girl would write on the back of her notebook while she was bored in class.
To make matters worse, Andrew Niccol was involved, and that guy has real talent. Sure, his film “In Time” was cut from similar cliched cloth, but he usually manages to present a smart-looking film with his finger on the pulse of slick science fiction.
Sadly, “The Host” suffers from its original writer, who approaches fiction with the emotional depth of a wet napkin. There’s so much potential in the story, with would-be speculation about how this invading species works, how humanity would deal with each other in such a crisis, the nature of soul-versus-physical being, as well as general concepts of politics, corruption, trust, perception and reality.
But no, we get none of that. Instead, we get a dullard inner monologue of Melanie talking inside the head of her body. The humans that are left fall into caricature of post-apocalyptic fodder from crappy made-for-TV movies. There’s no real conflict within the survivor camp, and there’s no real development for anyone. The biggest conflict seen is Melanie not wanting her boyfriend kissing her body because he’s kissing the alien.
Beyond the ridiculous plotting and vapid characters, there’s massive logic holes. Somehow the humans live in a hollowed-out dormant volcano (that apparently isn’t totally dormant, but that shows up in a nonsensical throwaway line). Somehow they’ve built tunnels in this cave and run electrical lighting throughout. There’s also a massive mirror structure that pokes through the top, which allows them light to plant giant fields of wheat inside. The humans also have two massive cargo trucks that they use to get supplies (literally at a store marked “Store” in what appears to be a converted Costco).
Never do they explain how a dozen or so humans in rags managed to build the mirror structure. Never do they explain where they get their gas to drive from the middle of the desert into whatever town they do, easily 20 or 30 miles away. Never do they explain how the aliens manage to not notice these giant trucks rolling out of the desert, or follow up on missing persons that the humans kidnap now and then.
“The Host” is terrible science fiction that is so simplified, it’s painful to watch. Meyer tackles a story that is as big as the world we live in and beyond. However, she simply can’t handle it, so she tells it through two-dimensional characters that aren’t fleshed out enough to find a home in a Choose Your Own Adventure book from the 80s.
Scratch that. To call “The Host” characters two-dimensional is an insult to anything flat. “The Host” squanders any quality from its concept to deliver a vacuous, unoriginal and painfully dull film.