The Host not salvageable by cinema

ImageWhen writer/director Andrew Niccol took on adapting The Host, Stephanie Meyer’s other book about supernatural love triangles, I was intrigued.

My mistake.

The melodrama follows Wanderer, a body-snatcher alien whose race has taken over the planet, from the point it takes over Melanie Stryder (Saoirse Roman) onward. Wanderer can’t control Stryder’s emotions, and is soon driven to the desert to look for Stryder’s loved ones. Once it finds them among a large colony of free humans, Wanderer lives in the colony and they all learn to trust each other and live in peace and harmony and extremely poor dialogue.

What Meyer has done here is she’s taken the plot from Animorphs and taken out everything that made it cool. Instead of pre-pubescent middle schoolers thrust into a situation they can’t possibly control, The Host features saucy post-pubescent teens who blow most of their time in an underground farm with nothing better to do. Instead of perseverance against all odds, the story stresses dependence and rewards indecision. Thought speech is in, shape shifting powers are out.

The Host tries to key in on the internal dissonance between Wanderer and Stryder. Unfortunately, it does this with a poorly-developed love triangle, because that is literally the only plot device Meyer understands. Ian (Jake Abel) forges a relationship with Wanderer, but the alien is held back by Stryder’s already established relationship with Jared (Max Irons). Somehow, it devolves into yet another story about a weak female lead surrounded by strong men who want to have sex with her. The dynamic could have been interesting this time, but with Stryder’s constant stream of thought-dialogue, it actually gets kind of rapey.

The audience’s ability to hear Stryder’s thoughts is The Host’s key problem. It externalizes an internal struggle,  turning what should have been a source of tension and unpredictability into a reality TV-style argument about who to sleep with.

It’s hard to tell why Niccol signed on here. Normally a writer of thoughtful science fiction, he was unable to adapt the stupid out of The Host. His directorial fingerprints are there, but the story itself is too overwhelmingly lame for anything to save it.

This film places absolutely no trust in the audience to understand or care about its characters without help. Its body is eviscerated by terrible dialogue and an extremely botched car roll, and its ending is absolutely nonsensical. There is no conceivable reason to spend time or money here.

Joshua Knopp is a formerly professional film critic, licensed massage therapist, journalism and film student at the University of North Texas and a staff writer for the NT Daily. He has long been an avid fan of K.A. Applegate’s Animorphs book series. For questions, rebuttals and further guidance about cinema, you can reach him at reelentropy@gmail.com. At this point, I’d like to remind you that you shouldn’t actually go to movies and form your own opinions. That’s what I’m here for. Be sure to come back tomorrow  for a review of G.I. Joe: Retaliation.

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