by Genevieve McBride
In Stephanie Meyer’s adult sci-fi novel “The Host”, Melanie is one of the few remaining humans on Earth who hasn’t been physically taken over by a Soul. Souls are parasitic aliens that are surgically implanted into humans and take over the host body. In most cases, all that remains of the human are their memories. But not in Melanie’s case. Pursued by human-hunting Souls called “Seekers”, Melanie (Saoirse Ronan) launches herself out of a window to escape capture, but miraculously survives the fall to be captured anyway. In the hands of the aliens, Melanie is implanted with a Soul called “Wanderer” who finds herself fighting internally with her host who is alive and well in the Wanderer’s head.
It’s Wanderer’s job to dig through Melanie’s memories to find out where other humans, like Melanie’s brother Jamie and boyfriend Jared are hiding. Melanie is uncooperative and Wanderer is soon convinced she needs to be removed from Melanie’s body. But no one wants the information on the humans more than the head Seeker (Diane Kruger). Neither Melanie nor Wanderer trust Seeker to not replace Wanderer with herself, so Melanie/Wanderer escape to find a Healer who can remove Wanderer from Melanie. On the way, Melanie convinces Wanderer to help her find her Uncle Jeb whom Melanie, Jamie and Jared had been seeking before Melanie was captured.
It’s Uncle Jeb who eventually discovers his lost and dehydrated niece and takes her to his hideout, a network of caves inside an inactive volcano that houses about 3 dozen humans. There Melanie is reunited with her little brother and her boyfriend, but is soundly rejected by her boyfriend when it’s discovered she’s host to a Soul. Wanderer has to win the humans’ trust, which is difficult, to say the least, when all the humans want to do is kill her. This includes a boy named Ian who, after attempting to choke Wanderer to death, finds himself attracted to her, much to Jared’s and Melanie’s consternation.
If this recap hasn’t put you to sleep already, congratulations! There’s a slight chance then that you’ll make it through the movie. While Ronan plays Melanie/Wanderer beautifully, hers was the only performance that had some semblance of emotion. Even John Hurt, who plays Uncle Jeb, looked like he had just enough energy and interest to utter a few words simply for laughs. Jared, played by Max Irons (yes, Jeremy’s son) is adequately teen sigh-worthy, as is Ian, played by Jake Abel, but in a less brooding manner.
While the Souls are supposed to be a peaceful race, Kruger’s Seeker is deadly intent on finding Wanderer. This is the film’s only true conflict and it’s lackluster at best. Others in attendance at the screener said the movie followed Stephanie Meyer’s novel of the same name closely, but the movie did away with quite a few ancillary characters. I think my husband said it best when he told me, “I never thought I’d utter these words, but Twilight was better.” Just like Twilight rewrote vampire and werewolf mythology, The Host tries to portray the story’s aliens as harmless, peaceful invaders. For someone who grew up with the Alien franchise, I think it was difficult for my husband to accept the delicate, fluttery, dandelion-esque Souls and their “peaceful” assault on Earth, much less the awkward teenage love triangle. Or square, rather.
Not having read the book yet, I went into the movie with little more than a synopsis of the plot. I had no expectations which means I wasn’t terribly disappointed by the movie but I must admit I struggled more than usual to stay awake. Most of those in the audience who read the book seemed okay with its theatrical adaptation but that’s just it. No one was wowed and there was an almost tangible malaise to the crowd as we exited the theater. If you’re a Meyer fan, I’m sure there’s no stopping you from catching this movie but if you’re not, there’s really no compelling you to watch.
2 out of 5