Film Review: The Host

Film adaptations of popular books are a regular occurrence in the world of cinema nowadays but oftentimes, aspects of the book fail to make the connection when on the big screen.  Andrew Nicholls’ attempt at transferring Stephenie Meyer’s bestselling book The Host onto the big screen suffers from this particular problem.

The Host is set in a time where Earth has been invaded by aliens – known as souls – that inhabit the bodies of humans, indicated by their glowing eyes. Humans are believed to be destructive creatures hell-bent on destroying the planet through warring and violence, and the souls’ solution to this is to take over the bodies in order to make the world a more peaceful place.

However, not everyone takes so kindly to this force of action. The protagonist Melanie Stryder (Saoirse Ronan) is in hiding with her younger brother, Jamie, and lover, Jared (Max Irons) but while protecting them, she is captured by “Seeker”, played by the underused Diane Kruger. Subsequently, a soul named Wanderer – later known as Wanda – is placed inside her body and is probed for information about the whereabouts of other humans. Yet, Melanie proves too strong and refuses to go down without a fight, mentally resisting Wanda at every turn.

Melanie persuades Wanda to locate her brother and Jared, leading her into the desert. It is when Wanda is found by Melanie’s Uncle Jeb that the film begins to pick up as she starts to interact with the humans and earn their trust, while trying to stay hidden from Seeker. However, a confusing love triangle is thrown into the mix as Wanda starts to develop feelings for Ian (Jake Abel) whilst Melanie is in love with Jared.

This idea of ‘being in two minds’ is rather apt from this point on. It takes a while to get used to hearing Wanda converse out-loud with Melanie’s voice inside her head, and initially comes across as quite jarring and off-putting. This is a prime example of where something works perfectly well on the page whereas in film, it is much more difficult to portray. At times their conversations with one another are unintentionally laughable. Although, with that being said, as the film progresses, it becomes easier to accept and that is all down to Saoirse Ronan’s performance. She carries this film completely, with many of the scenes being her alone acting as both Melanie and Wanda and she pulls it off remarkably well for such a task. It is her delivery that allows this film to work in the places where it does, but unfortunately that isn’t very often due to the strikingly under-developed supporting characters that lend only little to the overall experience.

What is certainly a promising premise and character study, The Host lacks the drama it so desperately craves. The main conflict derives from Kruger’s character and her search for Wanda as well as the humans, but unfortunately her screen time is frequently taken up with cold, blank stares and displaying overall frustration. And while the film tries its best to build to a climax, it instead falls very flat, resolving the woes that plague the characters rather quickly and with little drama or fallout.

There are some nice moments, especially between Wanda and Melanie’s family, but those moments are too infrequent to make an impact, and despite the enormous stress placed on the romantic relationships, neither Melanie’s relationship with Jared or Wanda’s with Ian are fleshed out enough for the audience to care about them. Add that to the over-two-hours-long running time and the film suffers.

Though a strong turn by Ronan and an undoubtedly interesting concept, The Host ultimately never lives up to its potential.

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