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THE HOST

Reviews
by Leonard Maltin
March 29, 2013 12:18 AM
10 Comments
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Photo by Alan Markfield – Courtesy of Open Road Films

Having suffered through the last two installments of the heavy-breathing Twilight Saga, I wasn’t eager to see the latest film based on a novel by Stephenie Meyer. The only reason I had any hope was the presence of Saoirse Ronan in the leading role—and indeed, this uncommonly gifted Irish actress is the main reason the film doesn’t completely implode.

The time is the future. Earth is at peace because human beings have been replaced by aliens, who now inhabit their bodies. These supposedly nonviolent creatures have already taken over other planets, with equal success. But some humans still remain, like Melanie Stryder (Ronan), who is willing to die rather than surrender and abandon her little brother and boyfriend.

Diane Kruger plays The Seeker, a steely figure who sees to it that Melanie ultimately submits. She doesn’t realize that her latest victim’s spirit is so strong that it survives inside the mind of her new “host,” who’s known as The Wanderer. (I’m not making this up.)

At this point, fairly early on, The Wanderer, easily identifiable by her creepy, luminescent eyes, discovers that she’s in a constant tug-of-war with her former “self.” Only an actress as expressive as Ronan could pull this off without looking ludicrous.

But what she is able to avoid the film itself cannot. Melanie prods The Wanderer to travel to a remote spot where Mel’s wise old uncle (William Hurt) looks after a small colony of human survivors, including her little brother and boyfriend (Max Irons). Most of these desperate folks don’t trust the new, creepy-eyed girl who looks like the old Melanie—but Hurt does. And wouldn’t you just know, a love triangle emerges as one of the hunky young guys falls in love with The Wanderer while Irons rekindles his feelings for the “inner” Melanie. It’s Team Edward and Team Jacob all over again, but even cheesier, supported by the same kind of new-agey music that dominated the recent Twilight episodes.

I expected something better from writer-director Andrew Niccol, whose track record is spotty (S1mOne, Lord of War, In Time) but whose ambitions are great. Even a writer as experienced as he couldn’t make the densely cluttered denouement of The Host understandable to a simple viewer like me.

The saving grace of this silly movie is Saoirse Ronan. She validates The Host, as much as anyone could, the way Jennifer Lawrence anchors The Hunger Games. Watching her radiant face, and hearing her flawless American accent, is almost worth the price of admission. Almost. 

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10 Comments

  • Ana | April 14, 2013 9:11 AMReply

    I'm not going to try and defend this movie - because it really was awfull. I just want to point out the fact that those who criticize the book based on the film only are true assholes because I've read the book and it is great and creative - different from everything I’ve seen even. NO, I'M NOT A TWILIGHT FANGIRL, in fact, I thought twilight was terrible. One of the worst books I've ever read. But The Host surprised me, really. It's not the romance thing only that appears most of the time on the screen, it's much more then that. Seriously, they've taken out the biggest (and better) part of the history. Reasons why I hated the movie. So, if you want to talk about the movie, do it. But don't go blaming on the book or Meyer. We all know people long to throw critics at her even when it's not her fault at all. She wasn't the one who completely fucked this up. She actually did a good job with The Host (book, of course). AND NO, I'M NOT SAYING SHE'S AN EXCELLENT, TOP-WRITER OR WHAT SO EVER, all I'm saying is: Let's play fair and speak the truth and not bash on something you don't even know. And I'm not 12 year old either so cut the bullshit. It's a good book, the movie sucked. End of history.

  • Amber | April 4, 2013 10:45 AMReply

    @Val
    You question my honesty for expressing my opinion? That made sense in your mind before writing it?
    Yes, it's what I think of the film (the reason why I expressed it). I thought it was atrocious, and I'm certainly not alone in that sentiment. I didn't think Ronan was particularly bad, but she by no means "carried" anything. She was passable in this. Tried to work with what she had.
    The material is so god-aweful, it's so ludicrous; the directorial choices an embarrasment; one of the worst films ive ever seen. Like I said, total shit. That's my opinion. In terms you'd understand, it's my "honest" opinion (not my fake one). Lol.

  • Steve | April 2, 2013 11:35 PMReply

    I'm surprised these two fans of JL can't be satisfied with the wonderful success she has had over the past few years without making catty comments about Ms. Ronan. Despite the film's complete panning by the critics, she gave a beautiful and charismatic performance in it.

    And by the way, she is a truly great actress, one capable enough to earn one Oscar and two Bafta nominations by the age of fifteen.

  • Amber | April 4, 2013 10:37 AM

    I love how you automatically need to conclude I am a fan of JL in order to dismiss my perfectly valid opinion of miss Ronan's performance and the atrocious film.

    In your mind, one can't critique Ronan or the film while thinking HG is relatively better or that JL accomplished more. I must be an unsatisfied JL fangirl.
    A valid opinion is "catty comments".
    Lmao. Talk about delirious fandom.

  • Val | April 2, 2013 11:22 PMReply

    Mark, her accent wasn't really "flawless." It was rather grating, but consistently grating. I can tell that you were aiming to compliment Saoirse even before you saw the movie.

  • Steve | April 6, 2013 12:20 AM

    The opinion expressed is "valid" in your own mind. She has been praised by a number of critics despite being saddled with some loopy dialogue in a very challenging role that required her to interact with a trapped human within her while sometimes also acting opposite other performers at the same time.

    It was unquestionably a very difficult and tricky role, and despite its challenges, she displayed her trademark powerful screen presence along with the acting chops to fully animate her character. Despite the film's drubbing, she has come out the other end impressive as always.

    Mr. Maltin's analogy is apt because one can anchor a film whether good or bad, and she most certainly does in this case.

  • cole | March 30, 2013 3:11 AMReply

    "The saving grace of this silly movie is Saoirse Ronan. She validates The Host, as much as anyone could, the way Jennifer Lawrence anchors The Hunger Games."

    If she got Critics Choice Award for this just like Jennifer Lawrence did for The Hunger Games, then maybe you're right... However, for me, her performance is decent here. Not great... decent. Blame the bad source material (The Host, the winner of Delete Key Award as The Worst Book of The Year in 2009). It's SMeyer after all, a writer with no imagination to come up the name like The Wandrer, Seeker, Healer... it's always dull and sucks

  • Amber | March 29, 2013 7:32 PMReply

    "The saving grace of this silly movie is Saoirse Ronan. She validates The Host, as much as anyone could, the way Jennifer Lawrence anchors The Hunger Games."
    Give me a break. Ronan is a good actress, typecast, but good; very expressive like you said (and great with accents); but she doesn't anchor anything here. This is a complete piece of shit, there's nothing to anchor, it's purely laughable.
    Is any female giving a solid performance in a piece of shit movie going to be called "the saving grace" of the crappy film? At least the Hunger Games was a solid, albeit flawed, film; and it's largely flawed in parts from its execution, certain directorial choices, and not its premise . Sure, Jennifer gave a great interpretation of the character, and truly does anchor the film which largely relies on her portrayal of the heroine, but the film, it's premise and purpose, does, inherently, help it stand on its own two feet. It's solid. But this is pure shit. No other way to describe it. And no, sorry, no one in the role can be a "saving grace" to this atrocity.

  • Val | April 2, 2013 11:25 PM

    I think saying "pure shit" is excessive. If you think The Host was "pure shit" and an "atrocity" then I question your honesty.

  • Norm | March 29, 2013 6:43 PMReply

    Always insightful...

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