Review: The Host

film reviews | movies | features | BRWC Review: The Host

Even though it might not be immediately apparent, Andrew Niccol is responsible for some of the most innovative and intelligent concept movies made in the last 20 years.  The Truman Show, his script directed by Peter Weir, has to be high in the running for the most prophetic and dead on satire to come out of hollywood, or all of fiction for that matter, in the past 100 years, directly predicting the wave of soul-sucking reality TV that has plagued households since the millennium. Genetic selection satire Gattaca is an excellent piece of think-tank sci-fi, whilst Lord of War the kind of cynical quasi-political black comedy everyone thinks they can make but few can. All this to say is that I’m a big fan of Niccol and have defended him against detractors, the execution is not always perfect and he’s certainly capable of making a terrible movie (S1mOne anyone?) but his films are always determinedly about something, and that is remarkably rare.

So, imagine my surprise when I learn that Niccol was directing the adaptation of The Host, the movie adaptation of the latest work by Stephenie Meyer, notorious author of the Twilight books. Look, I’m not a judgmental guy, Meyer is plenty capable of writing something great just like anyone else is, but the Twilight ‘Saga’ was such a gormless piece of fiction that it’s hard not be suspicious. What is this guy, this guy who’s made a career out of science fiction satire – something that is very, very hard to do – doing making this movie, which was surely going to be anything but. Maybe Meyer is expanding her wings? Or just maybe the studio’s are thinking this movie starts with zero credibility and unlike Twilight doesn’t have a guaranteed fanbase, if we get the Truman show guy than maybe we can trick people into thinking this is a good movie for a minute or so? A depressing situation for all.

Anyways, The Host, such as it is. Is the story of an Alien parasite race that survive by going from planet to planet, taking over the bodies of the resident life forms and living out their lives, with lofty ideas about peace and understanding. One of the victims of said parasites is Saorsie Ronan, who upon becoming a host to a particular parasite named ‘The Wanderer’, discovers that unlike all the rest, she can fight back against her host, and the battle for her very soul is on. I made this movie sound fairly cool just there, but believe me this is an overlong, plotless, humorless bore of a movie, that somehow spends 80% of its running time in a cave, and at least 95% of that 80% consists of longing looks between Oscar Nominee Saorsie and the two random guys that populate the ‘Meyer Triangle’.

In theory there are some decent ideas here. In theory the idea of a narrative revolving around two people fighting for one body is intriguing, and questions of identity and what it really means to be human etc… But for some reason it is decided that the most effective version of this story includes no real tension between the two leads, instead allowing them to reach harmonious co-existence within the first half hour. One of the biggest problems in Meyer’s work is her resistance to darkness despite dealing in innately dark concepts, and thus it takes the concept of this film, which is closer to a horror movie than anything, and breaks its back to somehow make it a feel good story. The alien race themselves epitomize Meyer’s and ultimately the movies’ problems with creating strong antagonism, and they end up an entire non-presence, with no evidence on screen that they have the balls or the means to kill as many people as they have done.

Ronan does her best in what is a very difficult role, having to pull off terribly written conversations with her own voice-over, while William Hurt does most of his takes in a manner to suggest he was thinking about the conservatory fixture he could add to his house with the money from this movie, whilst Inglourious Basterds’ Diane Kruger does her best as the film’s barely a villain villain. Niccol is not the strongest director visually, with this film bares a striking resemblance to his last film In Time. Which is to say it sort of looks like crap, although I concede I have no better way to film a non-scary cave for an hour plus of screen-time.

I suppose the optimist in me hoped for some blending of styles here, Meyer’s supernatural soap-opera blending with Niccol’s obsession with ideas and concepts, and perhaps we could have gotten the most out of the sci-fi whilst providing the necessary longing stares and speeches in between. But Niccol cedes to Meyer, and once take away the sci-fi visionary side to him, you may as well hire someone at least capable of making the film visually distinctive. Because The Host for the most part has toned down the ludicrous excesses of Twilight that I really don’t know who is going to see this film and like it. It’s just an entirely forgettable, ill-conceived fail and a waste of good science fiction concepts. Niccol is out to make a fool of me, I’m sure of it.

Rating:  3/10


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