I shall start this review by stating that I will not once mention a series that I am absolutely certain will be brought up quite a bit in reviews of this film. Andrew Niccol’s film adaptation of The Host shares at most one thing three things in common with it: the book was written by Stephenie Meyer, there are multiple scenes about kissing in both, and the main character is female. In my mind, they are incomparable, so I shall not name that series.
The Host takes place in a future that is not quite utopian, nor is it dystopian. Aliens have taken over Earth. They have entered the bodies of humans, taking over their minds. There is a pocket of resistance filled with humans that still have their minds, humans that will do anything to stay alive. Although this seemingly clichéd plot pretty much SCREAMS “Oh no more anal probing!” it is not that type of sci-fi. In fact, the aliens are not hostile in any way. Their plan is not to take over the world for its water, or so they can make little spore babies, or because they’re evil. Their plan is to take over the world to stop the humans from killing, starting wars, literally taking candy from babies, whatever it is that conniving humans do.
It follows Wanderer, an alien who is supposed to inhabit the body of a human named Melanie who knows the location of the headquarters of the human resistance. Viva la revolución!!! Yeah. Wanderer (later nicknamed ‘Wanda’) enters Melanie’s memories, despite some walls created by Melanie, who is still in her head, not having faded away quite yet. Eventually Wanda and Melanie become friendly towards one another and Melanie allows Wanda in, knowing that she will not give any information to The Seeker, the alien ‘police agent,’ interrogating her (them?). Not wanting to give anything else away (this is all covered in the first fifteen minutes), I shall stop here.
Before going on to my qualms with The Host, I will start with what was good in it. Saoirse Ronan (Atonement, Hanna) is excellent as always, playing Wanda damn well. She was perfect, exactly as I imagined someone in a body unknown to them would be. The other standouts of the cast are William Hurt (A.I., Altered States) as Melanie’s zany Uncle Jeb, adding some much needed humor to the film, as well as Diane Kruger (Inglourious Basterds, National Treasure) as the Seeker, playing it similar to Kristanna Loken as the T-X from Terminator 3. The rest of the cast, for the most part, do fine. Max Irons (Red Riding Hood) and Jake Abel (I am Number Four, The Lovely Bones) both did pretty well with their parts. The direction from Andrew Niccol (In Time) was surprisingly fantastic. There were certain shots I absolutely loved, especially one near the end that lasted a good minute which reminded me of the final shot of Cosmpolis. Credit there also goes to cinematographer Roberto Schaefer (Stranger than Fiction, Quantum of Solace). Seriously, props to both of you.
Now onto the bad… Andrew, Andrew, Andrew… What were you thinking? That screenplay is just so BAD! How can you direct the fuck out of a screenplay that is so bad?!? Especially if you wrote it! It is craaaaazy!!! The actors manage to work with most of it, with the exception of Chandler Canterbury (Knowing, After.Life) as Melanie’s little brother who is annoying as a farting elephant, but still! I am a fan of the source material (it is pretty good), and you focused the screenplay on all the wrong parts! Yes, you may have fit everything from the book into it, but when the book is 400-500 pages long, you have to cut some shit. You make choices. For The Host, these were not the best choices. By ‘not the best choices,’ I mean the worst possible choices (I may be slightly hyperbolizing). The society in the caves, some more development in characters, development in running gags/running ANYTHING!!! Also, why in the name of fuck are two of the characters kissing in the rain? THEY WERE IN A DESERT! I would say sorry for this outburst, but… seriously, what the fuck?
The screenplay was far more focused on the romance than it really should have been. The novel was mostly sci-fi with an underlying romance, sure, but it was by no means a schmaltzy romance novel.
The film, having a promising premise and relatively strong source material, should have been much, much better. But it was not. Despite that, it has strong direction and acting, which leaves me in a rut… Should I recommend it or not? Does the good outweigh the bad? I do not know. There are many good moments in it, but many terrible moments too. Is that Rotten Tomatoes score of 11% spot on? Not a chance in hell, it is not that bad by any means. Being the indecisive bastard I am, I will not say it “Won Cannes” or “Lost Cannes.” What I will do instead is pass this onto the editor, who shall flip a coin (please?) and if it is heads, will post “Won Cannes,” and if tails will post “Lost Cannes.”
(Editor’s Note: it was tails.)