Sarah’s Movie Review: Andrew Niccol’s The Host: This is Not Twilight

This is my review of The Host, and it is spoiler-free. I tend to write long reviews, bear with me. This review is also cross-posted to Lost in Reviews.

The HostThe Host is based on the novel of the same name by Stephenie Meyer.  That name may ring a bell as it is the same author who wrote the four Twilight novels.  The Host does not have vampires in it; rather, it is science fiction with a love story mixed in.  It is also not a young adult novel, but can be found in the adult fiction section of your library or bookstore.  The film adaptation was given the green light over three years ago, and it has taken some twists and turns to make it to the theatre on Friday, March 29th.

Unfortunately, promotion for the film has made it clear that this is by the same person who wrote Twilight.  That is going to turn off the same people who groaned, bashed, and complained about the Twilight films and phenomenon that lasted five years even though there are no sparkly vampires to be seen.  On the other hand, using the Twilight connection, Open Road Films hopes to attract the Twilight fan base to this new film and the subsequent sequels.

The film revolves around Melanie Stryder (Saoirse Ronan), one of the last remaining humans who have not been taken over by Souls.  Souls are the alien species who inhabit the humans, essentially controlling them and killing off the human “soul.”  The Soul that is implanted in Melanie is called Wanderer (Saoirse Ronan’s second role).  Wanderer quickly realizes that Melanie has not died off and remains in her body, her thoughts calling out and occasionally taking control of her body again.  The Souls’ sort-of police forces are called Seekers.  “The Seeker” (Diane Kruger) is one woman who is determined to find the last human resistance and cull all the information she can from Melanie’s mind.  She becomes quite obsessed with Melanie and Wanderer.  Wanderer becomes sympathetic and vulnerable to Melanie.  She goes in search of Melanie’s boyfriend Jared Howe (Max Irons) and brother Jamie Stryder (Chandler Canterbury).  She finds the family and other humans living in a large cave in Arizona, and they do not take kindly to those who the Souls inhabit.  They don’t know that The Seeker has followed her tracks.

The HostAndrew Niccol, famous for Gattaca and The Truman Show, directed and wrote the screenplay for The Host.  His career has mostly centered on the science fiction genre, his last being In Time.  This is the first film that he has wrote the script based off a novel.  He had a 600 page novel with a set story and ideas within to construct The Host.  He has a certain style of filming.  He made things grander than in the novel.  He also took some of Stephenie Meyer’s concepts and elements and improved upon them.  But this is not Gattaca, which seems to be propped up as Niccol’s best work and against which all his projects are compared to every time.  This is a separate story with its own merits.  I, for one, am glad to have had such a master science fiction storyteller behind this film.

This is a complex film containing an equally complex and difficult roles of Melanie and Wanderer (or Wanda), playing two characters in one body.  Saoirse Ronan was the first person to be cast in the film, and she pulls off the role nicely.  I do not know many actresses of the same age (she was 17 and 18 during filming) that could do the same things.  She manages to not look like a schizophrenic person, granted only one role is acted out the majority of the time.  Melanie’s words are only spoken in her head and heard by the audience.

The HostDiane Kruger slips into a somewhat evil role really well.  She has never played a character with a dark side or been in a science fiction film.  Her role as The Seeker is more complex than it first appears to be, giving her role new meaning by the end.

The rest of the cast includes relative newcomers like Jake Abel, who plays Wanda’s love interest, Ian O’Shea.  Max Irons only has a few major film and TV projects behind him.  Both Abel and Irons play two different sides of the love box or quadrangle that involves the one body of Wanda and Melanie.  Expect to see some swooning females in the audience.  Chandler Canterbury is a brilliant young actor who has a great future in film.  Every time I see Canterbury in something new, my respect for his immense talent increases.  Boyd Holbrook, who plays Kyle O’Shea, Ian’s brother, has a smaller part compared to the novel, but comes across as the tough, thick-headed bully of the cave humans well.  If the film does as well as some expect, all the actors involved in this film will become better known to fans and the film-going audience.

Veteran and well-respected actors William Hurt and Frances Fisher join the cast as Uncle Jeb Stryder and Maggie Stryder, respectively.  They add a certain class to the film and raise it a couple of notches.  You do not expect to see either actor in a less-than-quality film.  I got goosebumps when Fisher enters the film.  She does not have a large role but it is powerful nonetheless.  William Hurt plays the head of the cave human resistance, benignly ruling over the others and having crackpot ideas that actually work.  He is a bit of the comic relief also.

The HostWith any large novel adapted to a film, things are lost to the limitations of a film and the runtime.  While fans of The Host novel may lament their exclusion, the general story of the film is there.  The ending has not changed and there are no major changes.

My only real issue with The Host is how the relationships are rushed and how some of the lines from the novel translated to the film.  With only two hours, the Ian and Wanda relationship develops fast.  There are also some lines that make me cringe a little, similarly to some lines from the Twilight novels and films.  They do not sound so great on screen compared to how they sound reading the book in your head.  While fans may want those lines in the film, they do not play out well when acted and spoken by actors.

Having run a news or fan site for this film adaptation for a long time, I always said I would not say the film is great if it in fact turned out to be a disaster.  It is not awful and far from it.  This is a great film that sets the stage for a sequel that Stephenie Meyer is writing now.  The plot, actors, score, landscapes, and Andrew Niccol’s style all combined to create a unique film that hopefully the fans of the novel and newcomers, both male and female, will enjoy.  The promotion of the film has even kept a couple of the actors a secret.  That is something that not every studio will do, especially with actors that are recognizable.  As someone invested in this film, I hope that it finds the audience it needs.  There will be bashers and haters, but I think if you take a chance on The Host, you may be surprised.

This is not Twilight and it never will be.

I give The Host 4 “Chrome Lotuses” out 5.

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by Sarah Ksiazek

This entry was posted in Andrew Niccol, Boyd Holbrook, Chandler Canterbury, Diane Kruger, Frances Fisher, Jake Abel, Max Irons, Movie News, Saoirse Ronan, Stephenie Meyer, William Hurt and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

  • Sarah, I do agree with you re: the Ian and Wanda relationship. I found it difficult to buy their relationship onscreen because Ian went from strangling Wanda to kissing her in the space of about 15 minutes of screen time. I thought that was a bit much, especially as I believe their relationship is an important aspect of the film. However, I felt that both Jake and Saoirse did a good job in their roles.
    Unfortunately, I did not enjoy the movie as much as I was hoping to.

  • Michelle Moore

    Sarah, first let me say that I am a HUGE fan of The Host (book). After seeing the film yesterday, all I can say is that I feel the screenplay was written very poorly. The actors did a good job but I don’t think they had much to work with. The whole film felt a little “B” movie to me. My 14 year old son made the comment that maybe they spent too much on the cars so they didn’t have enough budget for everything else. I also felt there was not enough character development which is disappointing since Stephanie is so good at that very thing. All in all, I would not recommend this movie to anyone. The Book is a must read!

  • Barb

    I have read the Host several times and was at the 10 am showing March 29th. I love the book,the storyline, the charactors and especially the souls in all their beauty. I left the theater almost in tears! The connection and chemistry between the actors was almost non’existant (Melanie/Wanda,Jared and Ian.) Jamie was very good tho.Max Irons has the right look but nothing connects him to Melanie/Wanda,just like Jake Abel was so far reaching as Ian to Wanda. The rest of the casting were OK tho.Except!! I hated the charactor of Pet! She was supposed to be tiny,blond and frail.Emily Browning is terrible for the role of the tiny Pet, blond and frail and innocent looking. If she had been cast as Bella in Twilight it would have been a one movie deal…no chemistry there. I think the way the Souls were shown was fantastic,altho I thought the insertion site in their necks were up and down and not a side to side cut.I had planned to see it with my daughter and her friens today but after Fridays show we are seeing another movie…I could not bear to see it again

  • Mikaela

    In all honesty, i went into this movie sceptical. Due to there being a lot of negativity drawn towards The Host, either through disappointed fans or critics, I was having a hard time siting in the theatre and not feeling worried.
    Being a fan of the novel myself, I felt I was going in with a better understanding of what to expect. In regards to the critics disheartening comments about the film being full of too much dialogue, with no real depth, I felt that, yes..there was a lot of dialogue, but that was the book. A predominant amount of the novel is an internal dialogue between Melanie and Wanda. And though once Melanie started talking via voiceover during the film took some getting used to, I still feel it was done well.
    Now I have always been an Ian and Wanda fan, so learning that Jake Able was cast as my favourite character made me weary. However, by telling myself that as long as he brings the essence of the character to life I’ll be good,really made me focus more on how Jake carried himself and Ian O’Shea. And I have to say I liked it.
    Max was a great Jared, but i have to say Chandler as Jamie, did me in. That kid was awesome.
    Yes segments and Characters were cut and or shortened, but that’s the process needed when making an adaptation. The novel was in no way short, so the fact that I walked out of that theatre feeling excited about how I had watched so many things I’d only envisioned come to life, was an added bonus.
    In no way do I nit-pick into everything missing from the book or just how badly something was changed. in the end, if the movie pulls me in and keeps me engaged without enraging me, as well as the fundamental aspect of story gets across, I’m good.
    Either way, I’ve accepted that my opinions towards this film will put me in the minority, and that’s ok. We all have our opinions, and should accept that not everyone will like or appreciate everything the same way. And what bothers me is when people say that their opinion is the right one, or that their taste is better. When in fact it’s just yours and yours alone.
    So I will finally say, that I loved this film. By no means was it flawless or in anyways perfect. The constant cuts back and forth to the caves and the seeker became slightly irritating. Also the fact the most things were either white or a mirrored vehicle, was a little..eh. But the caves were spectacular, and surprisingly enough I found I was incredibly pleased with the casting of Emily Browning as Pet, well Wanda. I do hope there will be a sequel to the film even after all the negativity. However until then, all I can add is that I will be buying this on DVD for sure.

  • Jill

    I was disappointed with the movie. The voice over kind of got to me after awhile. I think it would have been a lot better if they would have had the main actress have a Louisiana accent and Wanda a more proper accent. I think that would have made the fact that there are two beings living in one body more believable for me.

  • Rosielind

    Before I’m writing my review, I just want to say that I’m a very objective person and I’m just a person who like to watch movie so much and based on my opinion, when I saw the host, I don’t think it’s bad as people say.

    I love the actors who played their character. I think Saoirse Ronan and Diane Krueger did a great job for their part, also the kid who play jamie. The boys did an ok job, though I knew they could do better.

    For the story, I was disappointed that it doesn’t tell much and explain the book better. I don’t know how to describe it, but it felt like the movie gives a scene without any explanation. It’s just “that” and move on. Which left me wanting more. I hate that Ian wasn’t the kind Giant I remember, I hate that Jared doesn’t have the chance to make it up for Wanda, and I don’t think Melanie and Wanda relationship portion wasn’t showed that much.

    But despite all of it, I really enjoy how the movie has this sappy romance feel. It was touching, breath taking, and in the end, I come out from the cinema clinging to the movie (I even watched it twice), I even think that the host movie was better than the twilight movie. At least it has some story and some real struggle.

    I give it 3 out of 5 stars…. (objectively, even if I want to give the movie 2.5 stars, I think Saoirse acting already save the movie and worth 3 stars by itself)

    I predict:
    Fan will give stars around 3-4 stars out of 5 (B to A-)
    Normal Female will give around 2.5-3.5 out of 5 (C to B)
    Normal Male will give around 2 out of 5 (E to C)