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Review: The Host (2013)

The Host (2013)

Directed by: Andrew Niccol

Premise: Based on the novel by Stephanie Meyer. An alien race of parasitic creatures has taken over mankind and the surviving humans have gone into hiding. When one of the aliens takes over the body and mind of a young woman (Saoirse Ronan), she simultaneously holds both alien and human consciousness. She escapes to a secret human settlement but the survivors do not trust her.  

What Works: Saoirse Ronan is a talented actress and she is far better than the picture she is in. Ronan includes subtle differences in her performance depending on whether the human or alien portion of her mind is in control and her manipulation of her accent is impressive.

What Doesn’t: The Host is a long and insufferable movie. The picture clocks in at just over two hours in length and in those two hours absolutely nothing happens. The whole picture can be summed up in three beats: a young woman is captured, she escapes, and then spends the rest of the movie hiding in a cave. The escape happens within the first twenty minutes and so the bulk The Host consists of the lead character moping around in a cave while other people give her dirty looks. That’s the whole movie. There is no story, just a premise and a poorly thought out premise at that. The conceit of The Host is familiar from decades of alien invasion stories but this is one of the worst invasion movies ever. The prologue explains that the aliens live in peace with one another and when they took over stewardship of the planet they actually saved it from humanity’s self-destructive ways. This is carried out in the action of the story. All the aliens are calm, truthful, and pacifistic. By contrast, the humans are violent and deceitful and often shoot, punch, and lie to the aliens and each other. What the filmmakers have set up is a conflict in which the audience is supposed to cheer on a resistance movement that is apparently dedicated to restoring violence and pollution to the earth. From this stupid foundation the movie only gets worse. Saoirse Ronan’s character has a fractured consciousness and her human identity communicates with her alien occupier in voice-over. This may be intended to simulate the experience of mental illness but it comes across as absurd and it is only made worse by toe-curlingly bad dialogue. The Host also suffers from terrible production design. The settings and costumes often look like they came from the set of a 1950s drive-in sci-fi movie and the few action set pieces are clumsy and lazily done. Because The Host is based on a book by Twilight author Stephanie Meyer, the movie gives itself over to a requisite love triangle. Whatever the problems of the Bella-Edward-Jacob relationship of the Twilight series, at the very least each of the players in the vampire saga were distinct characters and each of the men had specific romantic appeals. In The Host, Saoirse Ronan plays a generic young woman who is possessed by an equally vague alien consciousness and finds each of her identities falling for a pair of pretty boys who look more like interchangeable Gap models than survivors of an invasion. The entire drama of the love triangle comes down to Ronan’s character alternately making out with one guy or another while the voice in her head protests. This Goldilocks behavior constitutes most of the action in the cave and nothing is at stake. The Host does include a subplot in which an alien agent hunts for the human settlement but there is no excitement and no tension. Like the romantic storyline, the chase leads nowhere but somehow takes over two hours of screen time to get there. The filmmakers attempt to redeem their movie in the ending by forcing a character into a self-sacrifice that would at least end the movie on a beat of emotional resonance. If done successfully, this final plot twist would still be a cheap dose of sentimentality but at least it would be something. But the filmmakers still manage to foul it by cheating the hero out of her sacrifice and introducing a brand new character in the last ten minutes of the movie.

Bottom Line: The Host is a painfully bad movie. It isn’t the kind of schlocky action picture or soppy adolescent drama that makes for a guilty pleasure. This is just incompetent storytelling and cheap production values that makes for one of the most boring experiences a viewer is likely to have in a theater. 

Episode: #435 (April 14, 2013)