The Host – film review

Theatrical teaser poster for "The Host".
Theatrical teaser poster for “The Host”.
The Host, based on Stephenie Meyer’s book, was an entertaining exploration of life after the invasion where the battle for dominance is within our own minds. I haven’t read the original book so I can’t attest to the movie’s faithfulness, therefore my review will only be of the movie.

There is a likely reason why so many people didn’t enjoy the movie. Aside for the popularity of hating Twilight, Meyer’s better known creation, the premise is rather far-fetched: Earth has been occupied by parasitic aliens called “Souls”.

The Souls migrate from other planets in shiny little capsules. They insert themselves into the bodies of the dominant species, in this case us (phew!), completely replacing the consciousness of the host. Or so they thought. It seems that they haven’t encountered a species as willful as ours before, and many hosts aren’t so happy with the quaint utopia the aliens have brought to Earth.

The human rebellion’s ranks are dwindling, though, as the Souls spread out all over our planet. When rebel leader Melanie Stryder is captured, she fights the implantation in the only way she knows how: with attitude and snarky commentary. Her Soul is called “Wanderer” (Wanda for short) because apparently it is one of the oldest souls and none of the other billions of souls ever wandered. Slowly, Melanie starts to influence the actions of Wanda, and herein lies the strength of the movie.

Once you look past the somewhat silly premise with its flaws (for example, who implants the first Soul to arrive if it requires a team of them with host hands to manage the feat?), the story focuses on the characters. Creating compelling characters is Meyer’s strength.

When Wanderer/Melanie arrive at the rebel alliance stronghold somewhere in the Southwest, we have the painful reunion of Melanie’s body with her brother, and the painful reunion of Melanie’s body with her lover, Jared. Then to make things complicated, fellow rebel Ian takes a liking to Wanda, who likes him back despite Melanie’s protests. Meanwhile, the rebels struggle between liking Wanda, loving the memory of Melanie, and wanting to blow Wanda’s brains out. Can Wanda/Melanie bridge the gap and usher in a new era of understanding between the two species?

The film moves along at a steady pace, though slowly. It’s big on long, meaningful conversations, discussions about the importance of will and identity, and the angst star-crossed lovers experience when their bodies and minds just aren’t into the same guy. A lot of people hated it. Rotten Tomatoes gave it an 8% rating. Gosh, that’s really bad. We must not have watched the same movie.

I cared about the characters, aided by the strong performances of the actors, and I found the struggle of the surviving humans to maintain their free will believable. The relationships between the characters were a strength of the film, especially when the human experience was on display with its ugly and beautiful sides.

There was also a satirical bent to the movie, mocking our love for commercialism while reflecting it through the aliens’ eyes who embraced it, yet missed its meaning entirely. I laughed every time they shopped at the store called “Store”. Those Souls have a penchant for naming things obviously, but then we live on a planet called Earth so who are we to judge?

The Host was directed by Andrew Niccol, who co-wrote the script with Meyer. Niccol wrote The Truman Show (1998) and directed Gattaca, so fans of either of those movies may not find The Host on the same level, but it was by no means as bad as others will lead you to believe. Just assume that many people took their anti-Twilight sentiment into their viewing experience.

If you are looking for soft sci-fi for a Netflix night, and you like films about people who deal with feelings and the meanings of identity or the importance of will while beautiful people kiss each other, then you will likely enjoy The Host. Even if you don’t like romance, this film was good and I wouldn’t mind watching it again.

Release Date: March 29, 2013 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
MySF Rating: Three point zero stars
Family Friendliness: 75%

Content:

Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (in the background)
Language: 2 (mild)
Nudity: 0
Sexuality: 2 (bareskin smoochin’. In fact, lots of smoochin’, but no nudity)
Violence: 3 (brutal violence, death, pools of blood)


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