Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Host of Inner Demons

Hearts grow fonder amidst an alien invasion in the film adaptation of Stephanie Meyer's The Host


ARTH VADER (AV): This story is the first sci-fi effort for writer Stephanie Meyer, a veteran of the supernatural/love story arena. This time the Twilight mastermind spins a curious tale of human subjugation by an alien invasion in the form of possession. This story is an odd  merging of well-known Sci-Fi franchises but with the relationship/love-story angle pumped all the way to 10. Think of this film as the mutated offspring of Invasion of The Body Snatchers-meets-Twilight-meets-THX-1138. In the vain of Meyer's now near-legendary formula of the supernatural merged with the super-emotional, The Host is a minimalist view of a subjugated humanity occupied by alien invaders who mean to submit our bodies–and our world–to their rule. 

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): I haven’t read the book, so I can’t make an accurate comparison to the source material. All I can hope to contribute is that if they make another film, it stays in continuity to this one... and that they answer some very fundamental questions that arose for me.


AV: The only truly identifiable face here was the lovely and talented Rachel Roberts. Otherwise, this movie is populated with largely D-Listers, newcomers and other relatively new or low-recognition actors. While the acting is sound, this movie will win approximately zero awards–especially for acting–but it is not bad, per se. For me, the direction is very flat and painstakingly 2-dimensional. The minimalist nature of the sets, the number of people shown in any one scene and the fact that the movie purposely takes place far away from major metropolitan centers is divisive and somewhat vapid. Sorry, Ponty, this kind of acting with sparse backdrops and environments are a 1970's throwback to when it was too expensive to build full sets — your thoughts? 

TP: I think it was a good move to shy away from A-List actors to carry this film Vader. The fact that I only recognized one actor in it... and that he is such a great actor, brought the film to life for me as I took it as watching ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. Saoirse Ronan was great, having to play herself as two characters at the same time. Diane Kruger was also great, doing the same thing, but much more subtly while increasingly becoming more antagonistic. William Hurt was perfect in his role as a man that sees and knows a lot more than he tells. The pace of the film was very steady, but with a constant ominous feel.

AV: Before I go all medieval style on the SFX, let's just say that this is just NOT that kind of movie. A few CGI shots of.. uh… space jelly fish animations and a few dozen pairs of white colored contact lenses is just not enough to weigh in on this topic for this film. That's too bad because the inclusion of some decent effects could have made this film more engaging. In The Host, there was very little to hint at a sense of impending doom, of an ominous threat or that what was going was even so bad. SF/X could have added greatly to the movie's overall experience. 

TP: The special effects were very good, but relatively easy considering the setting didn’t really call for much to go over-the-top. The aliens were simple enough as where the vessels that contained them. The bulk of the effects were things we see in virtually every movie, like car accidents and gunshots. Tough to screw any of those up. If there was one “effect” I found outstanding, it was the music. Very bold and catchy for this film.


AV: Truth be told, this movie is an interesting (alternative?) view of an alien overrun of our world. Instead of death rays, spaceships and mystical technologies, the invasion comes in the softer–and more believable–form of a bloodless takeover by the pacifistic 'Souls'. The premise is clean and would be believable if the film didn't focus so much on the constant love-smitten dialogue of a near-impossible to follow love triangle. What should be a sense of overwhelming oppression and dread gives way to almost laughable dialogue between Melanie Strider (Saiorise Ronan) and her alien counterpart, the Soul Wanderer. The minimalistic vision of Meyer's world gone to alien subjugation is sterile and misses becoming one of the true grounding elements of the film. Much like Lucas's pre-Star Wars cult fav, THX-1138, the politics of a post 'next generation'  society helps play a role as a storytelling device that should be both eerie and unsettling. Unfortunately, the audience never quite gets a sense of this and that becomes this movie's single greatest tragedy. 

TP: There was a lot to see in this film, but it really aroused more questions than it answered. From the onset, humanity is a done deal. The numbers game just doesn’t add up, and there seems to be no hope for the human race ( a million to one odds isn’t hopeful). The obvious question in all of this is how in the heck did it all come to be this way? The aliens need to be surgically inserted into a human host, so what human was the first to do this procedure, why did they do it.... and how did they even know to do it given the communication barrier presented by the aliens in their natural form? Given all of this, why did the humans simply not kill anyone infected as they are easy to spot by their eyes and behavior? How do you get to a million to one odds by surgical procedures performed by passive aliens? This was a HUGE hole in the film for me.


AV: While there is a strong implication for a 'what could happen next' in the storyline, the movie ends with a feel-good "this ain't over yet" kind of message. The movie's pacing is moderate at best and forces any lover of action/drama to reign-in their wants and absorb a slow-paced, methodical story. I could see–remotely–that a follow-up is possible... but I for one am not looking forward to it. Pontificator? 

TP: Sequel? No... try prequel to explain how it all began, cause at a million to one odds, we already know how it’s going to end.


ARTH VADER rates The Host: While decidedly NOT my cup of tea, The Host is an interesting deviation from the sci-fi invasion-from-space cannon. It misses key opportunities to engage the audience and at 2 hours and 5 minutes, that's big. If future installments are forthcoming, the screenwriters need to make a stronger effort to engage the viewer. This movie needed more time in the cooker for it to matter more. That said, the voices in my head urge that The Host assimilates four (4) weakly-contested busted blocks. 

THE PONTIFICATOR rates The Host: This was not a bad film, but it wasn’t stellar either. I found it to be very interesting and constantly ominous as the situation was just insurmountable. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was watching the last moments of humanity. Although the idea wasn’t original (Invasion of the Body Snatchers), the presentation was intriguing enough to take over six (6) busted blocks. 

The Host: 5/10 Busted Blocks
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  1. Thanks Arth,
    Maybe this ones a DVD

    1. Agreed. Not worth a prime admission price... maybe a matinee?
      Good rental. Once.