What’s worse than a teen love triangle? A teen love square wherein two of the points inhabit a single body, and one of them is only ever heard through nauseating voice over that is too direct and too overused. Here that love square is made all the worse by its predictability and lack of genuine emotion. We are told that these characters love each other, but we do not see the relationships develop, really, which means we do not accept them.
I will say it a second time. The voice over to communicate Melanie’s (Saorise Ronan) thoughts is terrible. In addition to the flaws already mentioned, it screams at us too frequently. I don’t know how the possession duality could have been presented more convincingly, really, but I am certain there had to be a way, much like Peter Jackson once found an interesting method by which to show us Gollum’s two sides. Maybe dream sequences would have worked better. Maybe brief cutaways to an imagined mental room, wherein the young women talk to one another. Maybe something else. Whatever the case, the method employed by Screenwriter/Director Andrew Niccol fails.
Many of the characters are underdeveloped, namely the men, but also a few of the women, becoming caricatures about whom we only barely care.
The idea that Melanie’s closest friends would try to dissuade Wanderer (also Saorise Ronan – remember the love square) from freeing Melanie is silly.
And yet, this movie is actually entertaining, at least much of the time. Sure, the excruciating love story dominates the action, which renders the film less interesting than it might have otherwise been, but The Host’s conceit is novel enough to have an interesting central plot. Long has Hollywood given us stories about alien species trying to take over Earth (hello Pacific Rim), but this is the first I’ve seen that tells the story from a sympathetic invader’s perspective, not humanity’s.
The Host also avoids cliche battle sequences that represent humanity’s last stand, which is a fresh approach. The Host is subdued, seeks to pack an emotional punch and tries to find people behind the invasion, people on both sides of it. I like that.
Just as I mostly like Wanderer and Melanie as characters, or at least as ideas for characters. The execution and performance aren’t always great, but the story line is interesting. With better fillmmaking and acting, it might even have been powerful.
Ditto that for Seeker’s story arc. For a villain in a movie marketed to tweener’s, Seeker (Diane Kruger) is complicated and sympathetic. With better writing and direction, the character might have offered dramatic tension.
In this way, The Host operates mostly on the potential for compelling narrative, but the potential is strong enough that the story remains somewhat interesting, at least when it gets away from the aforementioned love square.
Finally, Niccol’s movie has some terrific visuals. He relies too much on romantic cliches (kissing in the rain, etc), but when he moves past those, his movie is beautiful. The mirrors that facilitate underground farming, the farm itself, the cave structure, the river that cuts through it, even the desert that surrounds it. All are strikingly well filmed.
The Host is not a good movie. But it has enough going for it that it isn’t awful either.