DIRECTOR: Andrew Niccol
BLURB: When an unseen enemy threatens mankind by taking over their bodies and erasing their memories, Melanie will risk everything to protect the people she cares most about, proving that love can conquer all in a dangerous new world.
RATING: 5 out of 10
“What the heck”, I said to myself, “why not review both the novel The Host by Stephenie Meyer and the subsequent movie of the same name?” “Why the heck not?” exclaimed the little voice in my head, but something deep beneath the surface of my tiny mind kept screaming out a warning.
Enough of that over-indulgent drivel, the book deserves better than a flippant and lame parody of the story about an alien invasion by little squiggly beings of light who invade human bodies and consign the “host’s” consciousness to oblivion.The movie on the other hand deserves something else entirely; more about that later.
I read the book when it came out in 2008. Looking for some get-away-from-my-reality pure escapism and having read all of the Twilight books by the same author, I decided to take on The Host. The story of an almost totally subdued human race where all aggression and illness had been eradicated by invading aliens, and a small band of resistance fighters still attempted to maintain the last vestiges of humanity (and return the aggression and illness?!), fed into all sorts of deeply held stereotypes and probably even my own survival instincts.
It wasn’t long before the educator in me began to see much more buried, shallowly, in the novel. The continuous internal conversation between Mel the human host and Wanda the invading alien, reflected the inner dialogue in all of our minds where we create doubt and even conflicting ideas and beliefs. Gradually the drawing together of the cohabitants of Mel’s body mirrors any internal psychological move towards understanding all aspects of oneself and the confidence to live a productive life. Equally the treatment of Wanda by the rebels hiding out from the aliens raised how ‘civilised’ humanity almost always treats The Other and the xenophobia that turns to hatred. Finally the conflict that occurs when each of the cohabiting personalities fall in love with a different human allows for the inevitable love interest sub-plot but also an opportunity to think about the impact of emotion on all sorts of relationships and how we make decisions. A terrific tale to use as a teaching tool and, even if a little drawn out, a really good read.
“Sometimes, fact mixed with fiction so thoroughly that, though no lies were told, it was hard to remember what was strictly true.”― Stephenie Meyer, The Host
Obviously given all of this I was looking forward to the movie adaptation and when I finally got to watch it on DVD I realised three things; the first is that a long novel doesn’t lend itself well to a two hour movie, a bad script can turn good writing into painful drivel, and even as fine an actor as Saoirse Ronan can’t rescue a movie suffering from the first two maladies.
The director Andrew Niccol has a pedigree that would make any Sci Fi addict excited -Gattaca, In Time, The Truman Show – but despite some stylish elements, like all of the alien vehicles and equipment were chrome (a chrome Lotus Evora!), the movie didn’t convey the same sense of claustrophobia when the rebels were hidden away in their desert lair or fill us with dread at the thought of being caught.
It’s not unusual that a movie doesn’t live up to the novel on which it’s based, but even as a standalone this movie suffers from confusion between it’s Sci Fi storyline and an attempt to replicate the romantic leaning of Meyer’s other big screen outings. I can’t help thinking it would have made a good TV series if Falling Skies hadn’t stolen its audience.