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The Host
(PG-13)

04/04/13
By Amy Diaz adiaz@hippopress.com



4/4/2013 - Some kind of geometric romantic tangle is created when a woman is in love with one man but the alien implanted in her body is hot for another guy in The Host, a vampire-free sci-fi love story based on a book by Stephenie Meyer (yes, Twilight lady).
 
Earth has been invaded by an alien race of fuzzy, glowy Twinkie-sized silverfish-looking things that are implanted in the necks of humans and take over their brains. The most insidious part? These aliens are a peaceful, honest lot who actually make the planet a “better” place, even as they rob us all of our free will and turn our loved ones into strangers. A few resisters remain parasite-free. Melanie Stryder (Saoirse Ronan) is one — or at least she was until she sacrificed herself to save her little brother Jamie (Chandler Canterbury). Now, she’s been implanted with an alien called Wanderer who is tasked with trying to dig out from Melanie’s memories the secrets of the human resistance so the aliens can politely and humanely crush them. Seeker (Diane Kruger), member of kind of an alien Gestapo, is particularly insistent that Wanderer give her the location of the remaining humans. But what neither Wanderer nor Seeker counted on was that Melanie, unlike many of the colonized humans, didn’t disappear. She still exists inside Wanderer’s head, trying to hide the location of Jamie — and Jared (Max Irons), fellow apocalypse survivor with whom she is all kissy face.
 
Wanderer — who is eventually called Wanda — isn’t used to all this 2gether4ever talk and is tricked by Melanie and her strong emotions into going out to search for Jamie and Jared in the desert. She almost dehydrates to death but is eventually found by Melanie’s uncle, Jeb (William Hurt), head of a small group of human resisters who live in a series of underground caves. They hold Wanda/Melanie prisoner until they can figure out what to do with her  — or perhaps, more accurately, get up the nerve to kill her. Jared hates this alien, which he thinks has stolen his girlfriend, but Ian (Jake Abel), another scruffy cute boy, starts to take a shine to Wanda. So, Ian hearts Wanda, Melanie hearts Jared, Jared hearts Melanie but isn’t sure she’s really still alive, and Wanda hearts Ian but because she shares some of Melanie’s emotions also sort of hearts Jared.
 
The apocalypse is so filled with, like, drama.
 
Actually, the most significant image I take from this vision of the apocalypse is footwear — strange, fashion-forward yet uncomfortable-looking footwear that the alien-controlled humans wear. They’re suede, lace-up high heels, kind of a muted-tone Timberlands but with thick four-plus-inch heels. I was riveted by them. Why would a civilization all about peace and harmony wear such ankle-endangering, easily-dirtied, calf-tiring shoes? What could they mean? Why do some of them appear to be open-toe? Did the aliens make these shoes special for their post-invasion occupation of Earth, or were these shoes fashionable when they took over? Were they the key to our undoing? I’m sure I was supposed to be appreciating the nuanced way in which Saoirse Ronan was portraying a body housing two warring personalities, but all I could think about, at least in the movie’s first half hour or so, was the shoes.
 
The shoes, as is turned out, were by far the most mysterious and suspenseful part of this endeavor. Half the fun of an apocalypse tale is the details of the apocalypse — how and why the end is nigh for humans, the details of the new world order. We get very little about all this. Meyer’s basic idea — an invading force that actually makes the world a better place even as they put an end to humanity — is kind of fun, even kind of a subversive take on the idea of the “destruction” of the human race. Neither here nor in her book (yes, I read it; so shoot me, I like fluff) do we really get a fun examination of that idea. In fact, “fun” of all kinds is sorely, noticeably lacking. After all, you have two characters fighting it out for control of one body. The premise is practically a sitcom. And yet the mopey Twilight movies had more fun with themselves than this movie does with its concept.
 
Add to the story’s overall blandness the blandness of the actors. Ronan actually seems to lack chemistry with herself, if such a thing is possible, not to mention the total lack of even the hint of a spark with either of the dudes. The angsty torn-between-two-lovers stuff is further undermined by the fact that the two men look just enough like each other (and like the supporting characters in caveworld) that I wasn’t always sure who was supposed to be making eyes at Wanda or searching for some sign of Melanie. 
 
Ultimately, the movie never really gets going, never has the forward momentum to make it seem like the action-packed science fiction movie that it could have been. At just over two hours, The Host isn’t so long, but it feels like an eternity of dreary, plodding, uninteresting romance. C-
 
Rated PG-13 for some sensuality and violence. Written and directed by Andrew Niccol (based on the book by Stephenie Meyer), The Host is two hours and five minutes long and distributed by Open Road Films.  





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