It was the night after I watched Logan for the first time, and the rest of my family was not ready to watch it again. I was (and for the record still am) freshly enamored with the easy to love and fun to hate snide chatterbox of a villain of Logan, and the actor who played him, Boyd Holbrook. A quick perusal of his IMDb page informed me that I had only seen him in one movie previously, (A Walk Among the Tombstones, where he had a small role I barely noticed) and was in three more movies I immediately knew I had easy access to. And one, as you've probably guessed by now, was The Host, which I had casually plopped into my Netflix cue on the excuse that it was an Andrew Niccol film, with a vague inclination to watch it if I had nothing better to do and was in the mood to kill some brain cells. It's amazing how fast a vague inclination can turn into a legit interest with the proper incentive. I was like, "hey, let's watch this," and in my defense, no one protested.
|And in their defense they liked this guy in Logan as much as I did.|
But enough of the disclaimers. Movie review. The Host. I feel like the most accurate review I can make is to give a hearty laugh while waving my hand dismissively, but I'm a writer, so I suppose I should try and put it in words.
In the movie, Earth has been invaded by parasitic aliens who posses humans and take over their lives. At the very beginning, our heroine Melanie (Saoirse Ronan), a human rebel is caught and possessed by an alien called Wanderer, who, it turns out is nice -- unlike the villain (Diane Kruger) -- and when Melanie's mind refuses to leave the body to the invader, the two form an unconventional friendship. Wanderer gets to control the body, and Melanie yells things in her head. Wanderer turns to Melanie's side and runs away in search of Melanie's brother (Chandler Canterbury) and hunk boyfriend (Max Irons). She finds them along with her uncle (William Hurt) and other human survivors -- including a good looking dude named Jake Abel, I mean Ian, and his brother Kyle AKA Boyd Holbrook (AKA "oh yeah, that's why I'm watching this") -- who have a cute little community going on in some caves in the desert. Melanie's family assumes that she is dead, but conveniently decides not to kill the alien possessing her. Meanwhile Melanie inconveniently decides that telling them she's still inside is a bad idea, so Wanderer keeps quiet about it, causing some very convenient drama.
|You can tell the possessed because the alien parasite makes their eyes glow blue. Also probably worth mentioning; Stephenie Meyer wrote the novel.|
If you're thinking this doesn't make any sense, that's because you're right, it doesn't. The aliens are pacifists, trying to make the worlds they conquer peaceful, yet more often than not possession kills the host. (Hey, that's the name of the movie!) They're so "pure" we're told, they are incapable of picking up a gun. The villain is, however, conveniently able to for some magical reason, and shoots and kills people which in the movie's eyes make her infinitely worse than every other alien who kills by kicking souls out of bodies. This issue is brought up by "antagonistic" human characters to create conflict, but is never resolved.
For their part, the humans will go out, kidnap aliens, and forcibly remove the alien soul, which has a 100% fatality rate for both parties. They don't know how to remove the soul properly, but don't know what else to do, so they keep trying. This I suppose could balance the morality of both sides, making them equally wrong, but instead what the humans are doing is presented as barbaric. It never seems to dawn on Wanderer (Wanda for short, who's really the main character) that what her people are doing is at least equally terrible. Anyway the movie uses the conflict for drama when it wants and ignores it when it wants. On to lighter, sillier things.
|Ship ship ship ship ship ship ship ship ship ship ship ship...|
Love triangles! Yay. Actually it isn't quite. Melanie and Jared are consistently in love, but it's super awkward for him seeing "Melanie" walking around not being Melanie... especially when something starts growing between Wanda and Ian. The more you think about this the weirder it gets, because Wanda is literally just a parasite that is thousands of years old. Ian insists that he fell in love with her mind, but why in the world should their minds be compatible? And she could have fallen in love with anyone, why the guy who is a good physical match for her? Also he tried to kill her, but bygones I guess, or, whatever.
So with Jared being possessive of the girl who looks like and is possessing his girl, and the girl who looks like his girl liking someone else, but being hesitant to do anything about it because the real girl is in her head yelling at her not to, things really do feel like a love triangle; only, one that was created to have a happy ending for all involved. Yes, this scifi plot exists for the sole (soul!) purpose of enabling ideal romantic situations for its characters. It's truly amazing how many situations are contrived to bring about kissing too. I am actually impressed. It was as if that, and not the plot or the characters were the point of the movie or something. Odd, but that couldn't be, right?
|Hahahaha... ha... RIGHT??|
Now I'm going to talk about Kyle even though he's pretty insignificant to the plot and the entire point of the movie, because, I want to. He's the main human antagonist, which is an unnecessary and therefore small part, but I watched this movie because of him, and danged if he wasn't the best part. At one point he tries to kill Wanda, but plagued by the convenient writing, almost dies himself instead. Wanda saves him (against Melanie's protests) and then even lies about what happened to protect him from punishment. This is a good moment for Wanda, and also for him, and I enjoyed Holbrook's performance in that scene as the bad guy who suddenly finds he has to rethink everything after being given some unexpected and very undeserved grace.
Overall the entire cast isn't bad either, but campy writing can bring a bad performance out of anyone. Saoirse Ronan's Wanda was a good lead, but Melanie is underdeveloped. Being a disembodied voice for the majority of the movie did her no favors. She has decent chemistry with her two co-stars, which was important for what the film wanted to be. Jake Abel's Ian was much more interesting than Max Irons' Jared, who was about as blank as Melanie, even with screen time. Ian and Wanda were fundamentally more interesting because of the way we get to see their relationship develop. It ends with a bit of a cringe though, because while Ronan and Abel had chemistry, Abel and Emily Browning did not -- she being the empty body that Wanda is transferred to in the twist ending, giving Melanie hers back. Browning was only there a couple minutes, but was spectacularly incapable of convincing that she was the most developed character in the film once she took over.
|That twist ending should have won an award for Most Obvious Twist Ending Ever.|
This review is already way longer than it deserves to be, so I guess I'll wrap up. The movie succeeds in being what it was conceived and designed to be. Oxymoronic connoisseurs of YA romance are perfectly catered to, and as long as they have no perception of what actual good, artistic filmmaking looks like, satisfaction is guaranteed. The small part of me that enjoys teenage romance flicks was mildly amused. The scifi fan in me was both intrigued (by the premise) and irritated (by the lazy and one-note direction it took). And the movie reviewer-me is absolutely appalled at the senseless plotting and cheap scripting used to contrive laughable romance, but still had fun cracking up at all those unintentionally hilarious moments this movie deals out like glowing blue eyes and pointless make-out sessions. In conclusion: It was a terrible movie, and time well spent!