Reuben's Review of The Host
I've never read THE HOST, but based on the story presented on film, I don't think there was ever a way this was going to be a very good movie. Earth has been taken over by a benign, peaceful alien race that occupies the bodies of humans (hosts), squashing the personality / soul of the person who once inhabited the body. These aliens are, generally, passive and talk slow because that's how we know they are peaceful.
A few human are struggling to hide from the aliens. I'd like to call them a resistance, but they are far too passive themselves. They live in the rock formations around Shiprock, New Mexico and sneak "into town" for supplies from time to time, but otherwise, they are not really making much of an effort to rid their planet of the invaders. In a way, this makes sense, because they are so hugely outnumber, but it doesn't make for very good drama.
Into their midst comes Melanie, a tough teen...who unfortunately has been implanted with an alien. But Melanie is a fighter, and her personality has never disappeared, so she has a constant dialogue with her invader (who comes to be called Wanda). Most of the drama comes from the fact that Melanie really likes a guy named Jared and Wanda, even though she's an alien, is drawn to Ian. So we've got this weird "triangle" between 3 bodies / 4 souls.
It's possible that some of this COULD have been interesting if told with either a) verve & energy or b) a breezy, light-hearted attitude. But the movie THE HOST fails its own meager story by moving at a glacial pace in a drably colored world. The rocks are brown, the costumes are browns and grays and even the crops being grown by the humans consist entirely of brown wheat. The movie's score is ponderous...and for me to actually repeatedly notice the score, it has to be really good or really dreadful. Sadly, THE HOST is dreadful...it sounds like public-domain music that would have been labeled "Acoustic Folk Instrumentals: Slow & Sad."
I was simply amazed at how slowly paced the movie was. Very little happens, but what DOES happen is dragged out seemingly forever. The very few action sequences there are have no zip. THE HOST was written by Stephanie Meyers (of TWILIGHT fame), and it's clear the sci-fi trappings are of little interest to her, except as a way to create an awkward love triangle...much like the vampire/werewolf/human stuff she brought us in her more famous series. But as terrible as the TWILIGHT movies were, they had a sense of humor and touches of tongue-in-cheek playfulness. THE HOST is so earnest, it is deadly dull.
Melanie/Wanda is played by the interesting young actress Saoirse Ronan (ATONEMENT, HANNA). In the past, she's turned in some very nice performances. In this film, she seems trapped by the pacing, and because Wanda the Alien is mostly in charge of her body, she plays most of the film with a look of wide-eyed wonder on her face...but little else. She hasn't ruined her career here, but she hasn't exactly launched herself into stardom either. But she fares much better than her two love interests, played by Max Irons and Jake Abel. Granted, these guys have no real character development...but the two actors invest their roles with NOTHING. Thus, neither of them has one smidgen of chemistry with Ronan. Also, Ronan is still clearly a teenager (she's 19 now) and the men are well into their twenties. Their love scenes feel vaguely icky and inappropriate.
Diane Kruger plays "The Seeker"...an alien bent on recovering Melanie/Wanda, because she knows how dangerous a combination they are. The part is also under-written, and Kruger also manages to do little with it. William Hurt plays the "leader of the humans"...a man who also happens to be Melanie's uncle. Hurt tries to infuse his character with some kind of heft, but again, the part is underwritten.
The whole thing feels underwritten and half-baked. No one feels committed to this film. Nothing stands out as worthwhile. Many bad films are at least full of energy, full of the EFFORT (wasted though it may have been) of making the film. THE HOST feels like the film those same folks would have made...while sleepwalking.