The Host Movie Review - -

The Host
Reviewed by Damien Straker on March 30th, 2013
presents a film directed by Andrew Niccol
Screenplay by Andrew Niccol, based on the novel "The Host" by Stephenie Meyer
Saoirse Ronan, Max Irons, Jake Abel, William Hurt, Diane Kruger and Frances Fisher
Running Time: 125 minutes
Rating: M
Released: March 28th, 2013



In a galaxy far, far away, Earth was one of many inhabited planets made by Christ to bring about immortality. This was part of a pre-mortal world where people belonged to spirit parents. These spirit children were sent to Earth in human form, a physical body, so they could gain worldly experience and discover that their destiny was to be a part of an eternal life. The purpose of this was to sustain the family unit after death and into the afterlife.

If this sounds like the plot of a science fiction film, it's because it is, but foremost it's a summary of Mormon cosmological beliefs. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a comparatively new religion, which started in 1830 in America by Joseph Smith, Jr. CNN suggested that recent interest in Mormonism has been sparked by the public sphere, including having a Mormon candidate in Mitt Romney run for President in the US elections last year. 

Twilight author Stephenie Meyer is a Mormon too and is also a significant reason for the religion's exposure, given her popular vampire stories are deeply conservative, etched thickly in Mormon values, like chastity. It makes her novels and film adaptations appear as a cleaner brand of entertainment, which have been monumentally successful across two separate mediums.  

Meyer has said though that her values are unconsciously placed into her stories, which is bunkum because the religious attributes of Twilight and now The Host are incredibly transparent. They're the cornerstones of her work, providing both the thematic content and moral center of her narratives. Not that there is anything wrong with this. Some may sneer at the fact that the characters are essentially ciphers for Mormon beliefs, while forgetting that Frank Capra's films always evoked dominant Christian beliefs. 

Meyer opted to produce this adaptation of The Host, while science fiction filmmaker Andrew Niccol (In Time, Gattaca) was given the reigns of writing and directing the film. Together they've formed an unwelcome partnership because in this abysmal film the solely interesting aspect of the film is the Mormon subtext. Otherwise, The Host is technically dull with flat, singular camerawork, no visual or stylistic awe, glacial pacing and a script where an interminable middle act brings the film to a screeching halt.

The film uses Mormon cosmology as a template for its narrative. Irish-American actress Saoirse Ronan is cast as Melanie, a girl who is pursued by wide-eyed aliens called Seekers, who possess human bodies and ensure that they only see an optimistic world, seemingly free from lying and cheating. When she is captured by a female Seeker (Diane Kruger), Melanie's body is possessed by the soul called Wanderer but Melanie's mind continues to fight internally and convinces Wanderer to escape.

She retreats to the desert, searching for Melanie's brother Jamie (Chandler Canterbury) and then finds him staying with her uncle Jeb (William Hurt), who is leading an underground rebellion against the Seekers. She's met with great hostility by some members like Maggie (Frances Fisher) but when Jared (Max Irons) realises that Melanie is still inside Wanderer he tries to rekindle their relationship, only for Wanderer herself to be courted by Ian (Jake Abel).  

The story suffers a frustrating duality, burdened by groaning clichés but also lacking sufficient contextual details to deepen the narrative. Despite a committed performance from Saoirse Ronan, Melanie/Wanderer is a boring, one-dimensional character, poorly established and then surrounded by a group of equally disinteresting cut-outs. The only glimpses of personality in Melanie are provided by her unintentionally hilarious voice-over, where an interior monologue of moral righteousness attempts to deter Wanderer from extended romances.

The voice-over isn't problematic in signposting chastity but because the dialogue is silly and intrusive. This is meant to be a conflict between the impulses of the body and the resistance of the mind, an admittedly interesting theme, but poorly executed. It also seems that the lustre of Twilight-esque elements, like the love triangle, are beginning to fade rapidly as there were waves of laughter erupting from a largely female audience, such was the embarrassment of the film's cornball relationships.

In a film that lurches painfully over the two hour mark, the romance is ludicrously pitched as the dominant plot point when there are more pressing issues to resolve. What do the aliens intend to do once they posses all humans on Earth? Before Wanderer arrived, how exactly did the rebels believe they were going to retaliate from their cave? This frustrated me because towards the merciful end there are touches of a more engaging film. Concepts of liberating the soul through love and kindness, cast Melanie/Wanderer as a Christ-like figure, who verges on offering similar selflessness. It only serves to prove that the very worst films can share some potentially interesting ideas, even if you don't agree or believe in them.


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