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Thursday, April 4, 2013 11:04 am

Host’s trite execution

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Jake Abel as Ian O’Shea and Saoirse Ronan as Melanie Stryder in The Host.

Author Stephenie Meyer does the same to Jack Finney’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers with The Host as what she did to the vampire myth in Twilight – namely dumb it down with a sappy teen romance to the point where it’s nearly impossible to take any of it seriously. Which is frustrating because beneath the insufferable pap that takes the spotlight in the narrative are some intriguing ideas regarding identity, redemption and euthanasia. I believe that director Andrew Niccol, who’s made some fine films in the past, including Gattaca and Lord of War, recognized this as well. But being saddled with Meyer’s teen-centric plot and for some reason retaining far too much of her dialogue, he shoots his film in the proverbial foot before it has a chance to find its own identity.

The movie starts out slowly and runs the risk of losing those who haven’t read Meyer’s book. It takes far too much time explaining its premise and does so in a way that invites napping. Seems an alien invasion has occurred in which benign, off-world souls have taken over the bodies of humans and in the process have eradicated war and famine while transforming the planet into a world of peace. Sounds like a good idea on the surface but the humans seem lifeless and unemotional, a fate that small groups of resistance fighters want to avoid. Among them is Melanie (Saoirse Ronan), who’s taken by the aliens and has a soul implanted in her that ultimately goes by the name of Wanda. Unlike the rest of us puny humans, Melanie is a fighter and refuses to leave her body, resulting in an at times comical schizophrenic relationship between her and Wanda as they bicker about what they should do or whom they should love.

They finally come to the resolution that they should find the rest of Melanie’s people and here’s where it really gets tangled. They reunite with Melanie’s boyfriend Jared (Max Irons) but Wanda ends up falling for the equally hunky Ian (Jake Abel). What’s a girl with an alien parasite to do?!? Unfortunately, the film spends far too much time caught up in this trite love quadrangle, which sports such wonderfully cringe-inducing pieces of dialogue like, “He’s not even from this planet!” which Melanie screams at Wanda within the head they share. Yeah, it’s kinda kooky.

What isn’t, is the theme of change and adaptation that’s bubbling below the surface. Not only is Wanda struggling with and being changed by the human feelings she suddenly has to contend with but so is the Seeker (Diane Kruger), an alien charged with tracking down Melanie/Wanda and finds herself feeling anger and resorting to violence, very unalien-like characteristics. That we can come to accept other’s beliefs and are susceptible to changing for the better is a notion of tolerance and hope that all beings, whether they be human or aliens that look like wooly worms with lighted tendrils, should be open to and it’s a message that can’t be expressed often enough. Here’s hoping that The Host’s audience is able to glean this from the film. However, my fear is that they’ll be too susceptible to the calculated love story at its center or laughing too hard at the movie’s sophomoric dialogue to take any of these ideas seriously.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org

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