April 4, 2013

The Host: Twilight Minus the Vampires

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Even though I have never read the Twilight series cover to cover, it is apparent that The Host, Meyer’s latest project, is essentially Meyer’s beloved “Vampires vs. Humans” face-off with a twist.

The Host opens in Fort Worth, Texas ,after earth is invaded by an intelligent extraterrestrial species called “Souls.” These “Souls” are surgically inserted into a human body, which they quickly take over and leech upon. Hosts are in high demand with more and more souls arriving on the planet, and pure humans are close to extinction. The film’s heroine, Melanie Stryder, is one of the last humans left. After she is captured during a hunt, a “Soul” called “the Wanderer” is injected into her body. Unlike many of the other captured humans, Melanie does not release control of her body and mind without a fight. Wanderer and Melanie initially battle as a Soul interrogator called “the Seeker” presses Wanderer to release the memories of Melanie for the whereabouts of the rest of the escaped humans. Wanderer escapes, and is later found by Melanie’s escaped human family, who lives in an underground cave. Melanie and Wander are able to convince the humans that they are not a threat, but Melanie’s old lover Jared struggles to accept the fact that Melanie still exists with the Wanderer.

The film adopts the characteristics of classic Livejournal fan-fiction — but is more unintentionally hilarious. After I finished watching, one of my most pressing questions was why anybody would invest $40 million to create something out of a warped version of a 13-year-old’s fan-girl dreams. Meyer and the director slip us their take on what the future looks like by making every “Soul” wear sleek white suits and every piece of architecture minimalistic — down to the silver futuristic Macbooks the “Souls” use at their interrogation center. The Twilight formula is reprised and put into action by establishing a love triangle between the two heroines and the two teenage heartthrob boys who are in love with two souls in one body. Meyer does not mess with the formula for concocting teen romances especially when it comes to the construction of the heroine: the Wanderer is just as innocently submissive and tragic as Bella Swan was in Twilight, complete with dewy fair skin and a need to sacrifice herself for the greater good. What I found especially ridiculous was the act of getting the Wanderer to wear a revealing silver metallic nightdress to bed — a costume department malfunction joke that would have been perhaps taken seriously in the ’90s. The minimalism in the film is sometimes ridiculously simplistic. The word “Store” appears in black bold block letters on the supermarket wall where the escaped humans stock their food and supplies, as if the audience couldn’t figure out what a supermarket does.

The Host does offer its share of highlights. For one, Saoirse Ronan — the actress for the Wanderer/Melanie Stringer — was more capable than Kristen Stewart in terms of varying her facial expressions, which substantially helped deepen the tragic image of the conflicted Wanderer/Melanie. Choosing Diane Kruger (from National Treasure and Inglourious Basterds) for a shrewd and calculating role like the Seeker was a moderately satisfactory decision, as was the choice of having James Franco lookalike Max Irons act the part of Jared Howe, Melanie’s lover.

Conclusively speaking, we should never have expected much out of The Host to begin with, judging by its author. However, if you want a weekend popcorn movie, or a chance to goggle at teenage heartthrobs for two hours, this is your compostable movie of the week.

Original Author: Sally Gao