Sunday, March 31, 2013
I don't even want to imagine what kinds of bribes, manipulations, and downright intimidation had to be used to get director Andrew Niccol and star Saoirse Ronan of "The Lovely Bones" and "Hanna" fame to be involved in this movie. I guess this Stephenie Meyer teen fantasy garbage is just one terrible merry-go-round, and at some point every poor bastard in Hollywood is going to get involved. Andrew Niccol now has made a movie that is even dumber than "In Time", which is shocking since once upon a time he used to make smart SciFi dramas like "Gattaca" and "The Truman Show". Those days are clearly past, since not only did he direct this thing, he wrote it. So the terrible crushing hideous failure of a gimmick that kills - make that piteously slaughters - this movie, can all be blamed on Andrew Niccol. I can't say he had full intellectual control, since he was briefly fired as director before coming back, probably with his balls nicely sealed up in a envelope controlled entirely by Stephenie Meyer, but his name is still on the final product, so he still deserves all the blame for this ridiculous clown of a movie.
At some point over the years, the Twilight brand of vampire nonsense has numbed me, so I always forget how bad the original "Twilight" was when compared to its hilarious sequels. But honestly, its hard to imagine a movie quite as bad as "the Host", which even has the bad taste to steal the title of a perfectly serviceable Korean giant monster movie! The gimmick here is that Saoirse Ronan is playing both an alien parasitic organism similar to "The Puppetmasters" or "Invasions of the Body Snatchers" and the human psyche inside that body fighting for independence. This could have been done well, and there was a chance "The Host" could have been a decent movie, Andrew Niccol still is a talented director. But no, they express this gimmick in the worst possible way, which simply destroys any positive emotional reaction you could ever have thanks to a movie. This is a true trainwreck, and I dare not imagine a movie in 2013 that could be worse than this.
Weirdly, the star of the movie is not the human girl whose body and mind has been invaded by an alien parasite, but rather the alien parasite, Wanderer, later shortened to just "Wanda". Wanda is the one who Saoirse Ronan is playing for the entire movie, she gets the body, she gets the facial expressions, and ultimately, she gets all the sympathy. As for the original girl, Melanie Strider*, you never really meet her since the film opens with her getting implanted with an alien, and honestly, you wouldn't want to. Melanie exists as a voice over crudely thrown over the scenes, with Wanda occasionally talking back to it. However, it seems like this voice over gimmick was only added in after the film was finished, because its added without any kind of organic connection to the rest of the film. And it is disgusting. Melanie, I know your body has been taken over, but do you have to be such an obnoxious fucking brat the entire movie? Wanda comes off as an enigmatic sympathetic creature just trying to understand the strange human world she's been dropped into, and Melanie comes off like an entitled bitch whining the entire movie in a Bella Swan-voice.
This is simply the worst design decision I have seen in a movie in years. This is as misguided and stupid as anything you could possibly imagine. And it does an excellent job of constantly killing any sense of mystery you might have, any sense of interest you might have in the story, and even the barest figments of romance are immediately killed when there is a bratty voice in the background screaming: "EWWW!! You're kissing him with my body! No no no no no!" Just imagine watching "Gone With the Wind" and hearing every single vapid, selfish, and hateful thought Scarlett O'Hara going through her head. Then imagine Scarlett O'Hara was written by one of the worst writers in history, and there you go. That's "The Host". Scenes like this are so ludicrous from their very concept that its a mystery how this movie even got made. What were they thinking??
Okay, Melanie, let's have this out right now. Right now: SHUT UP. SHUT THE FUCK UP.
This entire movie I couldn't help but laugh in pure shock as to how simply terrible this decision was. And trust me, I wasn't the only person in that movie theater laughing. Even if you're the biggest fan of "The Host" in the world, a fangirl of fangirls, there is no way you could possibly enjoy this movie. This sort of internal dialog within a characters' head obviously is a technique that works way-better in a book, when you can have the perspective within a character's mind and understand immediately what they're thinking. Film is a silent media, for the most part, everything the character thinks has to be shown to you through expression and body language, it cannot just be told outright. However, when a character exists only as voice over, you lose the main vehicle of character sympathy that the medium of film relies upon. Any director on Earth could tell you this. Melanie could have existed in a visual sense through any number of means: internal scenes within Wanda's mind, having Melanie stand around though only Wanda can see her, or perhaps leave her existence as a mystery, and make Wanda's motivations somewhat unclear and build tension that way.
The latter especially could have been effective, I think. And I suspect this is what Andrew Niccol was going for, and perhaps the voice overs were added after the fact when Stephenie Meyer or another producer or test audiences thought this made the movie too confusing. I mean, this is a movie made for preteen girls, God help us if we let Saoirse Ronan's natural screen presence lead us through the story. Saoirse Ronan is made to be in front of the camera, her acting is so effortless but yet she manages to bring mystical and enigmatic power to every scene, elevating the material even in a shit film like "the Host". If you've seen "The Lovely Bones", you'd know she is an incredible actress who tells the audience more with a simple expression than most actors can do with entire Shakespearean soliloquies. But that's not what they did. They thew in the voice over. I don't even need to discuss anything more, that's all you need to make the movie unwatchable.
The plot is hardly worth discussing, but let's get into it just for the sake of completion. The Puppetmasters have conquered the Earth aside from several tiny pockets of resistance. Melanie in the very first moment is captured by the aliens and has Wanderer implanted inside her. However, because she's got such a strong will, or something, Melanie is able to hold onto her sense of self, so she fights off the alien until they come to a detente. Eventually Melanie forces Wanda to lead her to her home base, which is an underground desert fortress manned by a sleepwalking William Hurt. The humans are initially distrustful of this new alien girl, but they eventually decide she's worth taking in, probably because Melanie was a huge bitch anyway and nobody seems to really miss her. Most of the movie, interestingly, is not about the idiotic love story like "Twilight" but rather is about Wanda adapting to humanity and being accepted by those people. And it could have been decent enough, if it weren't for goddamn Melanie bitching in the background the entire time! Or if the movie actually bothered to develop much of its world. I don't really understand the aliens, or their motivation, or how their society works, and I'm really unclear on how this "host" thing works at all. Its all just really muddled.
Since this is a Stephenie Meyer book, there eventually does develop a love triangle, this time between two equally bland Abercrombie & Fitch models and with Wanda/Melanie. So its a love quadrilateral between four people and three bodies, its an interesting concept, but developed terribly. Melanie's boyfriend greets his long lost love by cold-clocking her in the face**, and this is actually his most charming moment. You might remember this kid from "Red Riding Hood" where he was just as pointless and expendable there as he is in this. The other boy has blond hair, who falls in love with Wanda. He's more sympathetic as a character, and can actually act, so his scenes are more tolerable. The love thing is never all that compelling because you know Stephenie Meyer will find a bullshit way to revolve it all. And indeed, the ending is very contrived and endlessly convenient for everybody involved. Wanda gives away the secret to peacefully get rid of the aliens, because this time, humanity is more worthy than the aliens. I though Stephenie Meyer was the author advocating giving up humanity with Twilight, now humanity is the superior race? I'm confused. Anyway, Melanie gets her body back and Wanda becomes the chick from "Sucker Punch".
Yeah, "The Host" is the nexus of "Twilight" and "Sucker Punch". At this point in the movie I was trying to snap my own neck my slamming my spine onto the top of my theater chair. No such luck.
Andrew Niccol adds an occasional visual flair to what is an otherwise deathly dull movie. The aliens live in a world built entirely in pure-white offices and drive chrome cars. Because in the future, everything is chrome. There was actually one shockingly inspired visual moment where William Hurt revealed an entire underground wheat field being made using a complex mirror system and ground water. The soundtrack is actually not bad, though its dramatic weight is obviously inappropriate to a movie as completely stupid in execution as this one. Saoirse Ronan is obviously a million times better than any Kristin Stewart, but all of her acting power is crushed when an annoying teenage brat is screaming in my ear. Made with more care and with less faithfulness to the original material, "The Host" could have been a compelling and interesting SciFi movie. But made the way it is... I haven't been this continuously tortured by a movie since "Green Fucking Lantern".
I spent the last half hour of this movie twisting my head into my shoulder, trying to chew through my neck and liberate my mutilated mind from this unbelievably stupid movie. Its a tough call to make when compared to a franchise as solidly awful as Twilight, but "The Host" is really that bad. Run, don't walk, away from any movie theater playing this abomination. Unless you want to bring yourself to tears in laughter and pain.
At the very least, Stephenie Meyer hasn't written a book in about five years, so maybe this is the last we'll hear from her. A man can dream, can't he?
* Get it? "Wanderer" and "Strider"? Symbolism this bad makes me want to set fire to my own face.
** I hear in the novel he actually tortures her for weeks. Because of True Love. Stephenie Meyer has such a pleasant way of viewing the world, doesn't she?