the last few years, we have witnessed the relentless
spread of Stephenie Meyer across our culture like a
rash. Fans excuse her insipid hackery with vague
admonitions of teenage girldom, conveniently
overlooking the fact that her heroines are the worst role models for teenage girls this side of crystal meth addicts. Stay passive and helpless! Suicide is
better than being alone! Do everything for love, even
if involves a stalker who refers to you as his own
Thankfully, that long nightmare appears to be over . .
. or at least has received a significant setback.
After ruining vampire stories for an entire
generation, Meyer set out to do the same thing for
alien invasion scenarios.
The Host took a rather brilliant idea – what if
total occupation by body snatchers made the world a
better place? – and slathered it with a thick helping
of YA absurdity, then served it up to us with the full
expectation of reaping
Twilight-esque profits. Instead, audiences stayed
away in droves, turning The Host from the next
big thing to a forgotten afterthought.
It couldn’t have happened to a nicer picture . . . and
by “nicer”, I mean “face-clawingly awful.” Watching
talented actors like Saoirse Ronan, Diane Kruger and
William Hurt waste their efforts on this drivel is
hard enough, but adding Meyer’s creepy sexual politics
turns it into an active disaster. Ronan plays Melanie
Stryder, one of the few free humans remaining after an
alien takeover. Our species now acts as hosts to
glowing sea anemones who control our bodies and minds.
And that’s actually a good thing. Under their control,
the world actually becomes a wonderful place. There
are no more wars, crimes, violence or mistrust. We
live in harmony with the environment, and the Earth
has begun to heal from centuries of abuse. It’s a
fascinating notion that The Host demonstrates
absolutely no interest in.
Instead, it quickly gives Melanie an alien parasite
that – in a flagrant violation of the film’s own rules
– doesn’t wipe out her soul. They battle each other
for dominance in a staggeringly bad series of
voice-overs, only to give themselves over to an
eventual standstill that transforms into a full-blown
alliance. Do they use that to try and free Melanie’s
fellow humans or reach a better understanding with the
aliens? Of course not! She has a pair of pretty boys
to choose from – one of whom loves her and one of whom
loves the alien! Isn’t that much better than talking
about all those icky boring alien invasion things?
I would be more inclined to be gentle if the love
triangle held any kind of creative juice, but the
subplot sucks the life out of everything it touches.
The boys (Max Irons and Jake Able) are blank ciphers
without the barest fundaments of personality, and
their rivalry consists of scene after exasperating
scene of the worst dialogue this side of Shyamalan.
The trio moons back and forth while the human
resistance dithers, the aliens fume and anything that
might actually justify our attention gets crushed
beneath the banality of Meyer’s “vision.”
It gets worse. Melanie’s internal battle carries the
disturbing message that girls should be afraid of
their bodies, and while we constantly hear how strong
she is, we see in her only the shallow musings of a
child at play. Ronan can make a ferocious screen
presence in the right hands. Here, you can actually
see the moment when she checks out and starts spending
her paycheck in her head. The same goes for
writer/director Andrew Niccol, a terrific filmmaker
utterly at sea with this turd of a story. When talent
like this fails to make a dent, it’s time to drop the
whole affair and move on.
Thankfully, people did.
took a beating at the box office, scuttling plans for
a franchise and presumably freeing those involved to
concentrate on better things. The Blu-ray gives us a
new chance to ignore it all over again . . . hopefully
marking the first steps in weaning ourselves off of
the author’s toxic prose that have held us all hostage
for far too long.
THE DISC: As befits a box office dud, Universal
has made only token steps to make the Blu-ray
worthwhile. The image is nice, with a solid sound mix
and the expected DVD and digital copies included in
the set. Beyond that, there is just a smattering of
extra features: one behind-the-scenes doc, a few cut
scenes, and audio commentary with Meyer, Niccol and
producer Nick Wechsler.
WORTH IT? Not unless you are into skeet
shooting and need a trio of target discs on the fly.
RECOMMENDATION: There are countless movies out
there about strong young women who deal with life,
love and the travails of a dangerous world. This is
not one of them. Its creepy moral underpinnings are
matched only by its utterly banal storyline: you can
actually feel your brain cells dying as you watch.
Even Meyer’s own fans pretty much ignored this one; we
strongly suggest you follow their example.
- Rob Vaux