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Review: 'The Host' Is A Dopey & Dull Sci-Fi Disaster

Reviews
by Drew Taylor
March 28, 2013 3:21 PM
20 Comments
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Last fall saw the end of what appeared, for a little while at least, to be a seemingly endless series of "Twilight" films. The moony film series, based on a series of equally moony novels by Mormon housewife Stephenie Meyer, were torturously lengthy, poorly plotted trifles, the stuff of dime-store romance novels and late-night horror movies (although infused with questionable gender politics and bizarre mythology for all the monsters that simply chose to ignore or eschew their Judeo-Christian background or iconography, leaving them as little more than metaphorically empty mopes). They also made what leading economists describe as a "shit ton" of money. So it's no surprise that Meyer's sci-fi one-off "The Host" (potentially the start of a new trilogy) is now getting the big screen treatment. It's also no surprise that it's just as horrible, if not even worse, than anything from the "Twilight" series. It's a dopey, dull, depressingly inert sci-fi disaster that retains all of the benchmarks of Meyer's mediocrity (the weird politics, the staid plotting, the moony eyes) but somehow manages to be even more humiliatingly awful. No small feat, indeed.

The beginning of "The Host" is fairly bewildering but, at the very least, sets you up for what's to follow. After some spacey voice-over narration by William Hurt about how Earth has been taken over by aliens who control human beings (giving them oddly glowing blue eyes), we're dropped into a poorly-staged action sequence wherein actual human Melanie (Saoirse Ronan) is confronted by a bunch of these blue-eyed bastards, led by a character only identified as The Seeker (Diane Kruger), even though all of the aliens who look for humans are called Seekers… Ah hell… Anyway, Melanie is captured and implanted with an alien, which looks like an angelic jellyfish. She is now awkwardly renamed Wanderer (um okay) – but wait – Melanie is still in there! Her humanity remains! Or something.

These early sequences showcase one of the elements that is terribly wrong with "The Host" -- that the back-and-forth between The Wanderer and Melanie is presented as a purely auditory thing. Wanderer will say something, and then you'll hear, in voice-over, Melanie respond (in an accent that sometimes has a Southern twang but is too inconsistent to properly identify). There are literally a million ways to present this ideal of dual personalities on film, the most obvious (and effective) being some kind of doubling where you actually see both versions of the character. Instead, Ronan as Wanderer blankly delivers every line of dialogue in a kind of bureaucratic monotone, with a follow-up line as Melanie sounding like some pissed-off teenager at the mall.

Thanks to a clumsy framing device wherein the Wanderer searches Melanie's memory for information about the location of other humans, all of the important back story is delivered in hazy flashbacks – mostly about her relationship with a dreamy outcast named Jared (Max Irons, handsome but unmemorable) and her little brother Jamie (Chandler Canterbury). Even though it was written and directed by Andrew Niccol, who has never met a high concept he couldn't limply execute ("S1m0ne," "In Time"), it reeks of Meyer's mushy dialogue and unsteady plotting. For example, in one flashback, Melanie is seen sitting by a campfire with the anonymously handsome Jared. "We have to go to sleep," she protests. He looks deep into her eyes and says, "Sleep with me." Works like a charm!

After Wanderer/Melanie escapes, she meets up with Uncle Jeb (Hurt), who whisks her away to his underground community, which looks like some kind of Middle Eastern cave dwelling mixed with an elaborate ant colony. This colony isn't too quick to welcome her (upon seeing her again for the first time, Jared gives her a heavy slap to the face) but most come around to the fact that somewhere in that slight frame two personalities are living. The potential love triangle brews between Melanie/Wanderer and Jared, a trope that has been productively mined in genre fiction for years (maybe most successfully in a pair of Whedon-verse relationships, between Angel/Angelus and Buffy, and Wesley and Fred/Illyria), but with Wanderer/Melanie's introduction to this community, another relationship forms that makes things both infinitely more complicated and way less interesting.

You see, one of the human survivors, Ian (Jake Abel, also handsome and unmemorable), falls in love with Wanderer (now laughably just called "Wanda"), which is weird and perverse, especially because before this she was some kind of fish (no, seriously). We don't get any information about Wanderer before she came to this body, even though she claims to be over a thousand years old and probably did much cooler stuff than hang out in William Hurt's underground hippie commune. At one point, he reveals to Wanderer/Melanie that they have the potential to grow crops underground. "How do you do it?" She asks. "Like the magicians do – with mirrors!" He exclaims. Oh right. Because Siegfried and Roy Miraculously Grow Wheat is the hottest show on the Las Vegas strip.

Anyway, there's a whole bunch of nonsense with The Seeker fighting her own humanity, plus a scene where they steal supplies from a store that, in giant letters, is just marked "STORE," and some horribly staged and photographed action set pieces, including an indecipherable car chase. Everything is bland and flavorless, with nothing to glom on to emotionally, and every plot twist is transcribed from at least twenty light-years away.

Niccol is clearly obsessed with a retro-futuristic design consisting of clean lines and shiny surfaces (the Seekers drive chromed-out Lotuses), but he can't muster much enthusiasm elsewhere. Unlike in "In Time," the costumes aren't even fun to look at (they make the yarn world future of "Cloud Atlas" seem positively chic by comparison), and he seems lost in a jumble of supposedly big ideas, high school relationship entanglements (complete with some of the worst at-the-locker-after-school dialogue you'll ever hear), and science fiction tropes that we've seen a thousand times before. A more adventurous filmmaker could have made something (anything) from Meyer's admittedly thin source material. But "The Host" is worse than lazy -- it's soulless. [D-]

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20 Comments

  • Frine | January 29, 2014 3:55 PMReply

    Uuuoohh all I can say is id this movie doesn't make any sense for you is obviously you haven't read the book :)

  • Jay | November 16, 2013 8:30 PMReply

    Just saw this with my wife and I must say I agree with this review 100%. I was actually wanting to see this movie from the trailer but never got around to it. First off, the whole plot doesn't make any sense. The 'aliens' invade, take over virtually every human, admit that the memories of the former human get erased (essentially killing them) and have no remorse? But when Wanda sees a few dead souls on the ground she refers to us as barbaric ! Hello, your race just wiped out billions of humans, you might wanna take a look in the mirror before you call others monsters. Secondly, Mel was fighting the whole movie to get her body back, always saying " i feel like a prisoner ", then at the end she changes her mind and fights to stay where she was. Did she totally overlook the part where she threw a tantrum and phased out for 3 days? If these aliens took over the bodies of their hosts with their mind and personality, why didn't they just overtake a less resistant creature from earth, like dogs, or birds? Concept was nice, but there are just way to many plot holes in this film to enjoy. Like the reviewer stated, I can not wait for CinemaSins to "everything wrong with" this film.

  • George | October 11, 2013 8:45 PMReply

    My wife and I saw the movie last night on VUDU. We are in our 30's and have seen too many movies to count... we enjoyed the youthfulness of the film. No, we did not read the book. In relation to the review, the first complaint was about Melanie and the Wanderer, how else were they supposed to explain having two minds in one body? It was about what she was thinking, the character's thoughts? There would be too many cuts to Melanie or Wanderer if "acted out" as the reviewer proposes... and probably a bit nauseating. All in all, the intended audience would need to realize, yes, it's from Stephanie Meyer, an extremely talented and well loved author among who? Yes, the teenage population. This is one for the kids, but surely was pleasant to watch. A great story about the coming of two races akin to a possible 'first contact' in Star Trek as in a possible scenario how we would interact. It was well acted, the music is terrific, cinematography is pleasant, the meaning of the story was well represented.. love, humanity wins out. I get the whole dialogue thing and that the movie is not perfect. But terrible? Not in the very least. Aside from Rotten Tomatoes, which there is a movement for paying off or gifting critics, but anyway, check most other review locations, Netflix (4.25/5) Amazon (3.5/5), VUDU (3.7/5), IMDB (5.7/10)... even on Rotten Tomatoes you get a 51% audience approval as of this date. Clearly, "The Host" is well liked by "normal" people and over half and sometimes a very high approval such as in Netflix. All of the Twilight series is a "rotten" tomato, but with a high audience approval. So, it's not perfect, but it apparently resonates with most people, the majority. Movies that are this pace, lose out on most nowadays and that's strange. It's a great "teenage" film. Deal with it. If you want my vote for the worst dialogue, look at JJ Abrams new Star Trek: Into Darkness and the other ST:XI. Those both had the worst one-liners, high school dialogue, "I've gotta be cool" crap around.

  • George | October 11, 2013 9:03 PM

    Oh, I just saw on Itunes it's 4 out of 4 Stars! People like this movie!

  • Ralph | April 27, 2013 6:28 AMReply

    What a pice of shit review! I loved this movie and I am really enjoying the book right now, and this is coming from someone who absolutely hated the Twilight shit franchise.

  • Alan B | April 3, 2013 4:05 AMReply

    Jeremy Irons needs to reprise his role in a 'Damage' remake, in which he cuckolds his son Max Irons. Only this time it's a documentary.

  • Cole | March 31, 2013 11:35 PMReply

    When this line is delivered "Kiss me like you want to get slapped!" The whole cinema laughed...

    I really pity Saiorse Ronan, William Hurt and Diane Kruger who have given everything she can...

  • cole | March 31, 2013 11:36 PM

    I mean "they" not "she", sorry...

  • Simon Paiva | March 29, 2013 9:44 PMReply

    I dont remember laughin so hard reading a review like I did just know reading this one. I was pretty sure this movie was going to be mediocre, now I know it's even worse than I thought it would be. It's a shame such an incredible young talent like Saiorse Ronan ends up in a film like this, and they also have William Hurt and Diane Kruger in it, such a waste of talented actors.

  • Olivia G | March 14, 2014 3:41 AM

    You should watch the movie for yourself and try forming your own opinions. I thought it was a great movie, sure the costumes werent too great or anything but the message was amazing. Try watching it, thinking for yourself and go in with an open mind.

  • JCM | March 29, 2013 5:29 AMReply

    this reviews pretty spot on, personally I loved the book but the movie was a huge let down. boring through and through filmed without all the depth the book had to it. shame.

  • Mr Anonymous | March 28, 2013 11:59 PMReply

    The film's been slated on both HitFix and AICN. Check out its rating on Rotten Tomatoes, yes folks it really is that bad! Truth hurts!

  • Pamela | March 28, 2013 8:15 PMReply

    it's a shame that saoirse chose this over anna karenina, this broody young adult novel phase has to stop seriously!

  • Mr Anonymous | March 28, 2013 6:49 PMReply

    Why is everyone slagging off the reviewer? Maybe the film really is that bad, has that thought not occured to anyone? Come on!

  • 45678 | March 28, 2013 6:18 PMReply

    Is this a surprise to anyone after In Time -- another bit of pesudo sci-fi nonsense that Niccol wrote and directed -- was one of the worst movie of 2011?

  • HaHa | March 28, 2013 4:40 PMReply

    What a pretentious load of crap! The review, that is.
    It's so obviously biased and just plain silly (two Melanie Stryders side-by-side for most of the movie! What on earth were you smoking?).

  • Diane | March 31, 2013 12:39 AM

    So, what is the obvious bias that you're accusing the reviewer of because I don't see it. I went to see the movie and hoped to see a sci-fi story but was disappointed. Total waste of my time.

  • Liz | March 28, 2013 4:25 PMReply

    Just what we need ... an "unbiased" review by someone who clearly went into see this film, hating anything with Stephenie Meyer's name attached to it. Do us all a favor and get someone with a halfway open mind to go see the film and write about it.

  • Jeremy | March 28, 2013 4:32 PM

    ...not sure if serious. Stephanie Meyer is horrible

  • Real | March 28, 2013 3:43 PMReply

    This review was hilarious! Maybe this movie will be worth watching one day for the unintentional humour alone. Can people now just accept the fact that the Niccol of Gattaca and The Truman Show is long gone? It's like he used his lifetime supply of talent on those two movies and everything since has been a study in mediocrity.

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