Man, I knew that overblown, commercial American remakes often go way off from their source material, but seriously, I don't know where in the world they got the idea that the "Host" is supposed to a teenaged girl whose body is occupied by an alien, rather than a giant, amphibious monster from South Korea's Han River. Oh, if only this really was as exciting as... I hear Bong Joon-ho's "The Host" is (Oh, yeah, and I'm sure you've seen it), but alas, the final product falls kind of flat, and I can't say that I'm too surprised, because it stars Max "Prime Example of the Theory that Talent Skips a Generation" Irons and is based on a novel by Stephanie Meyer. Granted, it's also directed and written for the screen by the guy who did "Gattaca" and "Lord of War" and wrote "The Truman Show" and "The Terminal", mainly stars one of the great current child performers, and actually has some decent notes to its story concept, but this film didn't turn out as decent I had hoped it would, so I'm handing out blames more than anything. By the ways, some would argue that Ronan isn't really a "child" actress anymore, because she's well past 17 and doesn't need to worry about having to be 21 to drink, as she's not simply from the British Isles, but Ireland, whose baby bottles are probably spiked, but I for one always pay close attention to the "teen" in eighteen, especially in this case, where Ronan is showing that her tastes still need to mature a bit. Man, these little girls and, well, middle-aged housewives keep messing up hardcore stuff, because first it's vampires and werewolves through "Twilight", and now we've got a sapped-up alien film coming out shortly after "Warm Bodies", which didn't exactly destroy the coolness in the zombie genre, but showed that a romantic zombie flick is possible. If you think that "Saw" is enough of a soap opera, just wait, because it's only a matter of time before we get the romantic slasher film, "Psycho About You". Until then, we only have to suffer this film, which could be worse, but decidedly be better, even though it isn't without some commendable areas.
There are only so many strengths to this film, but what commendable efforts there are behind this project quite the way, with, of all things, Antonio Pinto's original score being admittedly fairly impressive, for although Pinto's efforts' overusage throughout the film gets to be a touch tiresome after a while, especially when their general steadiness intensifies the slow spells in pacing that make the final product so dull, their marriage of tastefully minimalist soul with stylish technical touches is refreshing and musically lovely, maybe even complimentary to what effective moments there are in this film. Pinto turns in no stellar score, but his work deserves more credit than it's getting for its soul and competence, because if their is a relatively engaging moment in this mostly disengaging film, its effectiveness is reinforced by Pinto's musical touches, which are decidedly not the only things whose strongest moments help in giving this film its strongest moments. As I'll touch more upon later, the acting in this film is hardly generally up to par, and it's not like there's all that much to work with, but, as I expected, Saoirse Ronan delivers about as much as she can, being not only convincing with her once again flawless accent, but as two gradually changing forces occupying one vessel, using layers and the occasional strong dramatic note to sell you on the Melanie Stryder and Wanderer characters' internal tug-a-war and shifts in character, both between each other and within themselves. Certainly, Ronan isn't given too much to do as this film's carrier, and doesn't push as much as usual to bypass material limitations, so don't expect her to deliver nearly as much as she did in "The Lovely Bones" or "Hanna", but make no mistake, she comes about as close as anyone or anything in saving the film as decent, which should tell you just how much of a mess this film is. Even with a decent lead who has her share of high notes in acting, the final product can't begin to hope escaping mediocrity, and that's a shame, because if it's not Ronan's performance or Pinto's score that ignite some slight degree of intrigue, it's Stephanie Meyer's basic story concept, which is not too terribly original, nor cleansed of cheesy beats that the plot is forced to have in order to move along, but holds a potential for some degree of uniqueness, as well as thematic and dramatic depths that could earn quite of a bit of your investment in this sci-fi opus. As you can probably imagine, the faultiness of this execution of a somewhat decent story concept is frustrating, and it's not like Meyer's ideas ever stood a chance of being executed into all that commendable of a film, but there is some value to this concept, and you are bound to get the occasional glimpse of such value after a while, thus sparking high points that marry with, well, the film's being too bland to be bad to make a final product that stands secure away from contempt. With that said, oh man, does this film fall flat as a mediocre disappointment, being with its share of undeniable strengths, but not enough to compensate for the problems, of which there are many.
What momentum there is to the film isn't exactly all over the place, but among the most messy aspects to Andrew Niccol's direction is unevenness in pacing, which jars back and forth between intensity in atmospheric kicks, but at least keeps consistent in boasting major flaws in either pacing extreme, with the hurried spots thinning out exposition, almost, if not decidedly into dissipation that renders the story and its character seriously undercooked. It's hard to describe just how lacking the lack of meat to expository depth is, for although the final product doesn't exactly tell you nothing about its substance, shortcomings in development distance engagement value about as much as the spells in pacing that are anything but hurried, and are instead limp, maybe even glacial in their dragging the plot along as dull and dry, with not enough flavor to compensate for too much talk and not enough action or, for that matter, depth to all of the talking. Pacing issues, alone, do some serious damage to the intrigue in the execution of this somewhat intriguing story concept, often rushing through exposition and often retarding atmospheric kick to the point of distancing your investment, particularly in the characters who drive this film, and aren't exactly helped by some of the performances. Like I said, Soairse Ronan is good, and such other, even more seasoned talents as Scott Lawrence, the sometimes impressive Diane Kruger and reasonably charming William Hurt are alright, but on the whole, near-paper-thin acting material results in mediocre performances, sometimes accompanied by just plain weak performers, from some awkwardly unconvincing tertiaries to Jake Abel and Max Irons, who prove to be unconvincing in a fashion that ranges from somewhat offputting to near-laughable. The supporting performances outside of the aforementioned decents aren't horrible, but if they don't fall flat as too underwritten to be all that worthwhile, they're faulty, which isn't to say that they can entirely be blamed for their shortcomings, because you can do only so much to sell material this messily written. Now, by now, I think it's safe to say that the not so superficial can agree that Stephanie Meyer is no Jane Austen, but I've grown to have some appreciation for Andrew Niccol as a screenwriter, because he's one to hve some unique tastes, as well as other strengths, but in this film, his unexpectedly poor interpretation of Meyer's flawed vision betrays the value of this basic story concept and delivers what might be the heaviest blow to this film, boasting a bit of episodicity that supplements some unevenness in story structure, as well as dialogue that ranges from bland to just downright embarassing, and calls your attention more toward the overbearing histrionics and genericisms that loom over the final product throughout its course, blanding things up tremendously and making the ultimately dominant other issues that more undeniable. I know that the issues don't sound too considerable, and sure, the final product's problems aren't exactly fiercely frustrating, but boy, there sure are a lot of issues, and they spark a distance that may be too bland to be bad, but disengages time and again, until what you ultimately end up with a film that could have been decent, and almost is, but ultimately falls flat as mediocre.
Bottom line, Antonio Pinto turns in commendable score work, while Saoirse Ronan turns in a decent, sometimes even strong lead performance, and both efforts go into breathing life into the high points that give a glimpse at the value within Stephanie Meyer's basic story concept, which ignites some moderate degree of intrigue, though not enough to sustain your investment, which is shaken by pacing unevenness that often hurries exposition thin and just as often slows momentum into dullness, as well as by mostly underwhelming supporting performances, and truly distanced by a weak script, whose structural unevenness and faulty dialogue back the histrionics and other storytelling issues that go into making Andrew Niccol's adaptation of Stephanie Meyer's "The Host" a borderline decent, but ultimately blandly fall-flat misfire that disappoints as mediocre.
2.25/5 - Mediocre