The year is 2010 (give or take…), and for some unfathomable reason I am at the height of my Twilight obsession (or fangirling period however you look at it). I have read all four books at least once, I’ve seen the movies several times, and obviously anything and everything minutely related to this book saga is pure gold. So, ready for some new reading material, I picked up the extremely lengthy The Host by, you guessed it, the author of Twilight, Stephenie Meyer. And so our story begins…
In the most layman’s terms I can think of, The Host would be classified as a science fiction and romance. It takes places on Earth but way into the future. The planet has been taken over by an alien species, which hunt down humans and use their bodies as “hosts” in order to survive. The alien is implanted into the human brain, taking over their thoughts and feelings and having full control of their bodies. The story’s protagonist, Melanie, is on the run from these aliens when we first meet her. She, having lost her parents at some point during this alien invasion, is on the run with her younger brother, Jamie, and her lover, Jared, when she is captured and implanted with an alien called Wanderer. The catch? Melanie is just as alive as Wanderer, and is constantly fighting for control inside her brain to manipulate Wanderer to escape and search for her surviving loved ones. Without giving away too much, this is essentially the plot of The Host.
The format of the novel is very unique, because it is told in first person from Melanie’s point of view. Because Melanie and Wanderer exist in the same body, they communicate with each other. This communication is extremely easy to understand if you are the reader, as you are essentially inside Melanie’s brain and can figure out who is talking and/or thinking and why. The two can basically have an entire conversation without talking out loud, which made me question how this plot could ever be successfully turned into a film.
Yes, I am a Twilight fan, and yes, I enjoy the movies. This doesn’t mean I sometimes find the plot points and dialogue cheesy, because if you think the movies in the Twilight Saga are Oscar-worthy films you would be undoubtedly incorrect and most likely shunned from the world of film. However, despite the less than stellar screenplay writing and acting (here’s looking at you, Kristen Stewart), I can still enjoy the movies 1) because I enjoy (read: love) the books, and 2) the movies are decent enough to get by. My willingness to overlook Twilight’s flaws and call it a decent movie is a very important point in the blog post, because unfortunately, I cannot say the same about The Host.
By the time I saw the movie this weekend, almost three years had passed since I read the book. Unlike my experience with Twilight or The Hunger Games, I didn’t remember every detail of the book while sitting in the theatre, which I hoped would make me nit-pick less and better enjoy the film. I can say with absolute certainty that I was thoroughly entertained during the entire The Host film. In fact, my group of friends (none of whom had read the book besides me), as well as several people within the theatre, was laughing so hard throughout that we were in tears.
The Host is not a comedy.
You know when you read a book and love it so much that absolutely any adaption, however horrible, will suffice, because it’s still the opportunity to see the story and characters you love in live action on screen?
Even that mindset couldn’t save this.
The dialogue and pacing were the two biggest downfalls for me concerning this movie. Many of the lines were out of place and awkward, and the fact that they were said in such a serious tone for (what I assumed to be) dramatic effect made them literally laughable. The screenplay dedicated over half of the film’s run time to the exposition (which, from reading the over 500 page book was slightly understandable), then proceeded to make Nicholas Sparks movies like The Lucky One and A Walk to Remember, in which the characters fall in love after one date, look like long-winded courtships. Characters declared love for one another after less than a full conversation. Short relationships were established and first impressions were reversed within days, making even a reader of the book confused and judgmental towards this insufficient and poorly paced adaption.
The acting is hard to judge simply because of the horribly written screenplay. Saoirse Ronan, known for her portrayal of Susie Salmon in The Lovely Bones (mind blown when I figured out that connection), did an admirable job portraying the challenging role of Melanie. The film chose to distinguish Wanderer’s voice through physical speaking, and Melanie’s voice through an echoed sound which *assumedly* was occurring within Melanie’s head. I admit, though the choice of communication was absurd, it was a challenging concept to portray onscreen, and Ronan’s performance was light-years ahead of any of Kristen Stewart’s acting. If you can understand her challenges in taking such an unintentionally humorous and hard-to-translate screenplay and trying to create two likeable and strong protagonists, then you too would applaud her performance in this mediocre film.
Diana Kruger plays The Seeker, who serves as a leader for the alien species and whose job consists of finding the human resistance. I personally like Kruger as actress, specifically from the National Treasure franchise, so I know she is a talented actress. Her determination and energy in this movie provide the audience with an intimidating and hated enemy, though Kruger is also plagued by poor dialogue and unintentionally hilarious interaction.
The two romantic interests, Jake Abel and Max Irons, were the highlight of this movie. They provide lovely eye candy, and, as a fan of romantic movies, I was willing to overlook the (insanely) rushed relationship and character development to try and enjoy the love stories that were present. At this point, however, I was looking for something (anything) to take this movie seriously.
Overall, I was very disappointed with The Host film. The book is so enthralling and detailed, and provides time to hash out and thoroughly explain every relationship and conflict. The movie, which somehow even felt long at 2 hours and 5 minutes, did anything but explain anything. For die-hard fans of the book, I’d recommend it only to see the characters and story you love translated on screen, but for anybody else, I’d say pass.
My verdict: Just catch it when it’s on cable. Or, you know, never.
Bright spot, the Imagine Dragons song in the trailer is pretty good. The score was also fantastic.