When I spoke with Stephenie Meyer with the release of her book The Host in 2008, she expressed her concern with how it could ever be made into a movie. The storyline is so cerebral in the way that two of the main characters share the same body. Much of their conversation is in their head.
With a filmmaker like Andrew Niccol (In Time, Gattaca), Meyer had someone who could not only adapt her book into a gripping screenplay, but also possessed the vision to make something special onscreen. And with an actress possessing the talent of Saoirse Ronan portraying the twin leads Melanie and Wanda, the pieces for a solid film were in place.
But, is that enough? Unfortunately the entire film does not add up.
As teased in The Host trailer, this is a story of a world where aliens have come and possessed almost everyone on the planet. Once taken over, the subject’s eyes glow and they are a slave to what seems like great ideals. There is no war. There is no violence. There is no hunger… yet, at what cost?
A handful of humans have resisted the takeover and Melanie is one. At the beginning of the film, she is cornered by a group of aliens, led by Diane Kruger. Rather than allowing herself to be possessed, she leaps to what she hopes is her death. Only thing, she survives and is injected with the alien force.
But, what sets her apart is the fact that this new being, now called Wanderer (or Wanda for short), has an inner soul of a true rebel who will not go quietly into the night. Melanie is still in there and there you have our inner conflict between two identities possessing the same body.
Melanie manages to convince Wanda to leave and she heads out into the desert seeking her fellow rebels.
The Host follows the Meyer story framework with a few slight alterations. This is a young woman at the center of something bigger than herself, kind of like Bella from the Twilight Saga. She’s also the subject of the affections of two guys who seek her heart, like the Edward-Bella-Jacob love triangle.
Yet here, there’s a fourth element as Melanie falls for one guy, while Wanda falls for another. As told to us in our Saoirse Ronan interview, it’s more of a love rectangle. As interesting of an idea as this is, it just doesn’t work in The Host.
See, that’s the problem here more than anything. Meyer was right when she thought the film would be a difficult thing to achieve given the parameters of the story. And it shows on every frame of this film. Ronan proves again why she is such a talented actress and Niccol does what he can with the material. It is just that the story at the heart of their effort fails them immensely cinematically.
There are so many story avenues that simply do not make sense or worse, possess no logic to them whatsoever. Like, if these aliens seek to takeover worlds to make them a better place with no violence, hunger or hatred… then why are they so obsessed with violently taking over our souls?
Our The Host review admits that the film contains an interesting idea at its heart, but unfortunately like an alien taking over a body… it simply leaves us with an empty vat lacking emotion, logic and soul.