Monday, August 19, 2013

Movie Review: The Host

When I read Stephenie Meyer's novel The Host (book review here), it didn't quite work for me either as a romance or as a science fiction movie. Still, I consider seeing the movie based on a book something of a reward for having read that book, so I was excited to see the film version of The Host. I missed it in the theater, but I watched it at home last night.

This is one of those rare cases where a movie is better than the book. All the scenes of waiting around for some action to happen are neatly condensed into a scifi movie that isn't boring. It's a good-looking movie, pretty much the way it looked inside my head (except I thought that Healer Fords was an American Indian man), and the musical score by Antonio Pinto is gorgeous. If you're not familiar with the plot, here's a brief summary: the Earth has been conquered by a species that calls itself the Souls. They're symbiotic, living inside human bodies. The human personality disappears - usually. When Wanderer arrives on Earth, she finds herself bonded to the body of a young woman named Melanie, but Melanie refuses to disappear without a fight. The two share a body, and Melanie leads Wanderer to a small surviving group of symbiote-free humans, including Melanie's Uncle Jeb and Aunt Maggie, her younger brother Jamie, and Melanie's lover Jared. Because Wanderer shares her body, Melanie's relationship with the other humans is complicated. One man, Ian, attempts to kill Wanderer, but then ends up having feelings for her (which makes Melanie jealous). Wanderer uses the Souls' advanced medical knowledge to heal Jamie when he almost dies from an infection, then teaches the humans to nonviolently remove Souls from their human hosts, leading to increased peace between the band of humans and some of the Souls. Melanie Stryder and Wanderer are played by Saiorse Ronan. The last thing I saw her in was Hanna, in which she played a modern young warrior woman, which was pretty awesome. I've also seen her in two literary adaptations, both of books I haven't read - Atonement (the love story you watch when you want to weep your eyes out) and The Lovely Bones. Ronan was born in 1994, so she's still only 19, but she's grown into a very beautiful woman. I guarantee you that by 30 she will be a legendary red carpet beauty. Jared is played by Max Irons, who was in Red Riding Hood (loosely connected to Twilight in that it was directed by Catherine Hardwicke like the first Twilight film, and it featured Billy "Charlie Swan" Burke) and who is the son of Jeremy Irons. (Anagrams of Max Irons that might describe his personality include Arson Mix, Soar Minx, As In Mr Ox, and Ram In Sox.) I have the same problem with Melanie and Jared's romance in the movie as I had in the book - I just don't feel that there's a lot of passion or heat there, except in one brief scene in which Jared remembers kissing Melanie and sees his memory in a dream. Max Irons is very pretty to look at, though. He is an English model as well as an actor, so think young Rupert Everett. (I say this knowing full well that Rupert Everett has aged extremely well and is, in fact, sexier now than he was at 25.) My feels reside more with Ian and Wanderer - he falls in love with her personality, not her physical body, although he does find her silvery, wispy natural form to be beautiful. (It's one of the most touching scenes of the book; in the movie, Ian is depicted holding another Soul, not Wanderer.) Ian is played by Jake Abel, who was in I Am Number Four (with Teresa Palmer from Warm Bodies) and the Percy Jackson movies as well as appearing in The Lovely Bones. It would be a nice symmetry if Abel and Ronan had played love interests in that movie, but while Ronan played the main character Susie, Abel had a small role as Susie's best friend's boyfriend. (He has one major scene - mistakenly thinking Susie's dad is attacking his girlfriend and beating Susie's dad with a baseball bat, badly injuring the dad's knee.) The stubborn Seeker who pursues Wanderer beyond what is normal for the cooperative-minded, peaceful Souls is played by German actress Diane Kruger. I may remember her from such films as Troy (in which she played Helen), the two National Treasure movies, and Inglourious Basterds (the film in which I discovered the beauty that is Michael Fassbender). She's a character you love to hate, but Kruger plays this character beautifully. The Seeker has a secret - she's fighting a losing battle with the human whose body she inhabits, and she can't stand her own perceived weakness for not being able to conquer the supposedly inferior human mind. She gets her interplanetary comeuppance. I was a little disappointed in the book - I gave it three out of five stars - but the movie was better than I expected it to be. Unless you're a hardcore Stephenie Meyer fan, you can probably skip the book safely and see the movie. It doesn't suck. Four out of five stars.
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Hollywood Classics Title Index to All Movies Reviewed in Books 1 - 24 by John Howard Reid. $0.99 from Another essential book for a film buff's library, this one is packed with information and reviews. Some of the entries are quite extensive. JHR provides all the information you need, including complete cast and production staff. I find JHR's information invaluable. I like to read not only who acted in a movie, but who made it, both top-billed and lesser mortals. -- Ross Adams in DRESS CIRCLE mag.

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