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10.0 out of 10
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Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Host


Choose To Believe

7.8 out of 10 | DVD or Rental

Rated: PG-13 Some sensuality and violence.
Release Date: March 29, 2013
Runtime: 2 hours 5 minutes

Director: Andrew Niccol
Writers: Stephanie Meyer, Andrew Niccol
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, William Hurt, Max Irons, Jake Abel, Diane Kruger, Frances Fisher, Emily Browning, Boyd Holbrook, Chandler Canterbury

SYNOPSIS: When an unseen enemy threatens mankind by taking over their bodies and erasing their memories, Melanie will risk everything to protect the people she cares most about, proving that love can conquer all in a dangerous new world.

REVIEW: Gattaca and In Time writer/director Andrew Niccol sets his sights to the sky with novelist Stephanie Meyer's new storyline. Instead of vampires and werewolves, Meyer and Niccol focus on world domination by way of an alien takeover of the planet by way of human possession. 

Earth is a balanced planet in perfect harmony. War no longer exists. Men and women work toward the common goal of reclaiming the world for the betterment of humanity. There is only one problem. Human kind has been taken over by a parasitic alien species that possesses the body and takes utter control of a person's mind, body, and spirit. Only a few humans have escaped possession, hiding out in remote areas of the globe out of the watchful aura-filled eyes of the new dominate species. Melanie Stryder (Saoirse Ronan, Hanna) is one of these remaining humans, staying off the radar with her kid brother Jamie, and a rough, scruffy survivor named Jared. When Melanie is cornered in an abandoned hotel, she sacrificed her life for the protection of those she loves. Unfortunately, Melanie does not die and is implanted by an millennium's-old alien named Wanderer. As Seeker (Diane Kruger, Inglourious Basterds) tries to have the wanderer access Melanie's memories to ferret out other humans in hiding, Wanderer and Melanie's voice start a tug-of-war for control over Melanie's body. Escaping the supervision of the seeker, wanderer drives out to the desert in search of Melanie's family. Nearly dying of dehydration, wanderer is found by Melanie's Uncle Jeb Stryder (William Hurt, Robin Hood). Once she is taken in, Melanie/wanderer must deal with hateful humans, a seeker desperate to find her, and the loud voice in head.

Stephanie Meyer and Andrew Niccol take in Meyer's most recent work of sci-if/fantasy fiction. Devoid of bloodsuckers and furry fanged creatures, Meyer opts for a kinder, gentler species. Meet an alien race that can only survive via forming a symbiotic relationship with a native planetary dominate life form. Their intentions are always to merge with the indigent life and make the planet and the society on it better. But human kind is different than the other 12 planet they have conquered/combined with. We of earth are a volatile, emotional race that wages war with each other, with ourselves, and the aliens that look to usurp us.

With everything that Meyer changes, one thing remains constant. Love is the cornerstone of her work. Wanderer/Melanie are fraught with stirring for two different men. Melanie is in love with Jared Howe (Max Irons, Red Riding Hood), while the most dominate wanderer - nicknamed Wanda by the humans - finds herself drawn to Ian O'Shea (Jake Abel, I Am Number Four). The internal struggle between wanderer and Melanie concerning these two handsome men comes to physical blows as each wants to remain pure for their chosen partners while respecting the rights of the other.

The element of the story that worked in the written form of the novel proves to be the most difficult element to translate to the screen. Once Melanie's body becomes the host for Wanderer, she is relegated to a 'bodiless' voice warring fruitlessly against Wanderer. At first, the way Melanie's voice is portrayed is something out of an after school special narrative. Many cinephiles may question the method Niccol employs to voice Melanie. He could have strayed from the book's format and shown Melanie as both herself and as Wanderer - side by side. Understanding the path chosen, Melanie's side of the conversation becomes more natural as the film progresses, offering up a few funny quips.

There is not a lot of major CGI in the film. Sure, the irises are all glowing with the spark of the alien host, a few instances of showing the alien life form in their natural state, and a constellation transportation system that takes the aliens from one planet to another. Otherwise, the action is more low key. Maybe, too low key. There are no epic explosions, no major violent car chases, no sustained gun battles. There are several chrome plated lotus sports cars to be marveled at, but not much else of action or lasers or light sabers. I guess I shouldn't expect much more from an alien species that can't survive without the backbone of another species.

Saoirse Ronan is all grown up from her wonderful turn as Hanna in the movie of the same name. She nails both the lack of emotion and emerging emotions that wanderer experiences. William Hurt, as Melanie's uncle, uses his soft manner and voice to quell any insurrection. Diane Kruger's Seeker, desperate to find wanderer and the humans for reasons all stemming from her own agenda, uses a nuanced performance to register the battle she herself was waging. The rest of the cast, unfortunately, is great to look at, but all seem too similar and interchangeable and able to play each other's roles if they wanted to.

The Host is a low tech sci-fi/fantasy adventure tale of survival and resilience. The alien invasion is over, and the humans just want to escape extinction. The host's eyes may have a shimmering aura, but the iris rings may be a little dim.

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