Friday, April 5, 2013

REVIEW: The Host (2013)

Stephanie Meyer has become something of a talking point in society in general these days, mostly for those infamous Twilight films, which so many people love to hate. I have never seen those movies or read the books, and people can say what they will about them – personally, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t like them very much, and as such, I don’t see a reason to watch them; it’s too far out of my interest for me to give a solid opinion on it. But here we have the adaptation of her newest novel The Host, and while it’s not really very good, I did at least have fun watching it.

Director: Andrew Niccol
Starring: Saoirse Roman, Jake Abel, Max Irons

This is a science fiction film about a sort of distant dystopian world where humans have mostly been taken over by little alien plasma bug things that have turned the Earth into a peaceful land, except one where people no longer have free will and their bodies are just hollow shells for these aliens. A small group of human rebels, as they always appear in movies – dirty clothes, living in caves, etc – are barely surviving out in the desert.

And it’s goofy. It’s so goofy. It’s tough to pinpoint exactly why, but I’m going with the acting as the main thing. I mean, the storytelling is fine and moves along at a pace that didn’t bore me, so that’s not it…must be the acting, which really is pretty hammy. I guess I’ll throw in the dialogue, too; I mean really a lot of the stuff these people have to say is awfully choppy and forced, even when the action is good. The main character Melanie (Saoirse Ronan) has been taken over by one of the ‘souls’ that invaded the planet, and the real Melanie talks in an inner-monologue inside her own mind. The effect is that it sounds like a very bored automated narrator in a PowerPoint project.

The corny back-and-forth romance triangle that pops up is about as ridiculous as it sounds in a movie like this…this really isn’t the type of thing that needs a love triangle, but I guess it appeals to the tweens coming to see the movie. Mostly it’s just groan-worthy and comes off as a time-waster rather than anything actually poignant. The acting just isn’t good enough to sustain the romance, and comes off more tacky and stilted than actually anything like what real kids this age would act like.

And, really, this kind of phoned-in character development is the biggest Achilles’ heel this movie has – the biggest thing preventing it from being more than a fluffy teen popcorn movie. The story is fine, the acting, while silly, wouldn’t be too bad otherwise, but really it’s the romance that drags everything down in the end. I never believed a second of it; was never convinced for a second that these people had any real connection going on. Romance can be so much more than simple ‘he likes me, he doesn’t’ crap, and with this movie’s plot and set-up, there was potential for a really investing romantic subplot. But the film just treats it as background noise, and none of the characters are ever really affected by it in any meaningful way. It’s just sort of there because it has to be, because the film is for tweens, and as such, the film’s integrity takes a big nosedive.

The real reason to watch this is just because the concept is pretty cool – it’s not your usual blow-em-up-enslave-humanity alien plot, and the cool neo-Western atmosphere is nice, even if they don’t use it quite to its full potential. The plot moves along quick and while it’s not anything too original, it keeps you fairly invested the whole way through and mostly does OK at keeping the tension up, even if it does sort of resolve itself way too easily and gets a bit sappy here and there.

So I guess what I’m saying is, it was certainly a movie. That much cannot be denied.

Did I like it?

Ehh. I didn’t hate it. I had fun riffing on its sillier moments and there were some cool parts here and there. Mostly what dragged it down was the rather cliché and trite romance plots, and with a little more thought and investment put into the romance, it could have been a much better movie. For sci fi movies, it ranks a bit below movies like In Time or Surrogates, which themselves are enjoyably B-level flicks. And it’s not as bad as Aeon Flux or Ecks VS Sever, so there is that!

But then again, that isn’t saying a whole lot. If you liked the book, well…ehh, from what I’ve heard you may be disappointed. On the other hand, critics who are seriously panning this are kind of off the mark, as there are far, far worse movies out there than this rather inoffensive and sometimes humorous one. See it at your own peril.

All images in this review are copyright of their original owners. I do not own any of them.