Movie Review: The Host- This Stephanie Meyer Adaptation is a Passionless, Thoughtless, and Unintentionally Hilarious Science-Fiction Romance

the-host-TH_07072_rgb+(1)Stephanie Meyer, a writer who stretches the generosity of the term novelist, has found her niche of success in the literature world aiding in the devolving quality of stories that are incredibly shallow and involve characters that are far beyond pedestrian. The Twilight series as it stands is not only an abomination of literary indulgence but also a lackluster film series that has lowered the standard for young adult entertainment and through its popularity has infected decision making to give us more of the same ruined formula. It’s difficult to imagine that Stephanie Meyer could produce something even duller than her pinnacle of absurdity in Twilight but she has succeeded tenfold with her sloppy blend of romance and science-fiction in The Host. Adapted for the screen and directed by Andrew Niccol, The Host is an extraordinarily obtuse romance that teeters between youthful ignorance and unintentional hilarity on a pendulum of silliness. There is absolutely zero depth to be found in this ridiculous teenage romp disguised as an alien-invasion film as it strains your patience for stupidity and your exposure to shallow adolescent thinking. While The Host could have been an intriguing contemplation on the clash between utopia and freedom, with a touch of romance to give it a little edge, it just becomes a wasted opportunity and an insult to the thought provoking nature of the science-fiction genre. Even the romance aspect of the film fails to inspire the minutest of emotions due to its disordered and passionless execution as though it was a love story told from the perspective of an actual alien who never had genuine contact with human emotion. It’s less of an Invasion of the Body Snatchers and more of an Invasion of the Emotion Snatchers in more ways than the intended purpose. Adapting a Stephanie Meyer book is already an uphill battle with intelligence and reason but when you add in the laughable talents of director Andrew Niccol the result is a mixture of a painfully languid dispassionate romance with an unsuspenseful and moronic science-fiction film containing dialogue so bad it’s already ripe for continuous parody.

Looking through director/writer Andrew Niccol’s filmography it would seem the man is quite capable of penning decent material since his first two written features were the slightly uninspiring but thoughtful Gattaca and the intriguingly heartwarming reality television criticism The Truman Show. However, over the last few years his storytelling abilities have been on the decline and getting exponentially worse moving from S1mone to The Terminal to Lord of War and finally to 2011’s In Time. Giving a screenwriter with questionable consistency wretched material from Stephanie Meyer to adapt practically guarantees failure on multiple levels, which is the case for the adaptation of The Host. The central concept of The Host follows an Earth that is now occupied by parasitic aliens who rest inside humans as their livable hosts and the human resistance fighting to be free of their control. Protagonist Melanie (Saoirse Ronan) is captured after a failed suicide attempt and spends the remainder of the film fighting her host body with her annoying inner monologue, a creative choice that inspires more laughs than suspense, drama, or care. Basically Andrew Niccol’s script is the perfect parallel to the lead character Melanie; a mindless pod of constant bafflement that has an inner conscience screaming to be let out. Every science-fiction element is tainted by the overemphasis on a shallow and practically non-existent romance and even Niccol’s romantic instincts are diluted by his poor plot structure. Opening up the film with narrative exposition and an odd suicide attempt only confuses the audience and the scenes spent highlighting the love she fights for are so brief they seem forced and unexplained. This is the kind of storyline that should have a moral subtext or a reflective science-fiction societal criticism but the script can’t even handle the basics of character, dialogue, and purpose. Niccol’s fails to give any sort of life to the templates of one-dimensional characters that Stephanie Meyers continuously writes and also seems to make it worse with his choice dialogue that is as excruciating as it is hilarious.

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Performing double duty on a film means you’ll either get double the praise or double the criticism and Andrew Niccol’s deserves plenty of scathing criticism for his muddled direction of The Host. Though the film has crisp visuals and captures its landscape shots beautifully it never successfully relates the experience of the characters to the experience of the audience, either in action or emotion. Despite being a romance film Niccol’s mishandles this genre from the very beginning with a true lack of emphasis on the true human connection between Melanie and her brother (Chandler Canterbury) and her lover (Max Irons). There is no authenticity to the implied emotions being felt leaving an open void of connection that dialogue, visuals, or narration can’t fix. The Host is poorly designed from the start failing to ignite your interest with their sloppy opening of pseudo-mystery and then failing to engage your sympathies by having no grounding in character purpose or overall care. When it comes to the argument between alien occupation and human freedom Niccol’s inadvertently gives credence to the alien argument by making his humans seems too contrived in personality and their desires too weak. Any deviation from the romantic norm results in awkwardness as nonsensical action sequences become tedious in their obligatory role to move the plot along. A film that pivots on the idea of human emotion shouldn’t feel as though it is completely absent of understanding human emotion but this is the unique talent of director Andrew Niccol. If any more evidence is needed to prove the absolute incompetence of Andrew Niccol as a director just look at the rigid and exhausting performances from his talented cast who can be seen trying their hardest to overcome the awful material that fights them every step of the way.

It’s unfortunate to see the extremely talented Saoirse Ronan attempting to maneuver herself elegantly through an embarrassing script that insults her ability to give characters depth. Ever since she came on the scene with her powerhouse emergence in Atonement she has consistently surprised us with powerfully raw performances from Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones to Joe Wright’s Hanna. The deck is stacked against this capable actress and her performance becomes nothing less than a joke as the terrible creative choice of inner monologue works against her on screen persona. What makes the admirable attempt even more exhausting is having two incredibly derivative love interests, played to laughable fault by both Max Irons and Jake Abel, monopolizing her scree time with pitiful excuses for romance. Director Andrew Niccol didn’t provide her or the other actors with meaty material so they’re left flapping their mouths with unintelligible dialogue that could have been written by a group of tweens on their 30 minutes lunch break. William Hurt provides little more than the exposition narrative since his character has the purpose of being the guiding the plot forward pawn in this messy game of chess. If you can’t get a credible performance from this more than accomplished actor then your incompetence is the only thing that truly shines. Another actor who is wasted in talent is the beautiful and diverse Diane Kruger (Inglourious Basterds) who gets the brunt of some of the worst scenes and definitely some of the most excruciating dialogue. Her talents are not in question here but rather we should question a writing and directing team that doesn’t understand the idea behind character development or depth in order to give their cast ample material to manipulate. The Host is already in the running this year for most amount of talent wasted for a worthless project.

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The cult of Stephanie Meyer will probably give her newest adapted cinematic outrage a boost in box office approval giving her an excuse to write another devolved literary failure. What she lacks in creative prose and character ingenuity she makes up for in manipulative folklore and after seeing The Host it’s clear that her momentary acknowledgement can’t last forever. Perhaps it was director Andrew Niccol’s adaptation of the material but despite how poorly the script was structured and made the blame of the material should fall on the original author who has very little interest in creating genuine and thoughtful stories. The Host fails to ignite any authentic romance and definitely lacks credible science-fiction contemplation on modern society but does provide some mild entertainment in the form of unintentionally hilarious dialogue (seriously, this would have been grade A material for Mystery Science Theater 3000). If anything The Host could serve as an eye opener for previous Twilight fans just how bad their beloved series is despite the fact that the former film makes the latter series look well made. Both Stephanie Meyer and director Andrew Niccol have outshined themselves in horridness as they have served in the creation of their worst piece of work in both their individual careers. This is one of those films that was an expected disappointment going in but goes to surprising lengths to keep you intrigued as to just how bad it will end up by the end. To summarize, The Host is a passionless, thoughtless, and tactless science-fiction romance that gets more hilarious and excruciating the longer it treads in the low quality creative waters.

Grade: D

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