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The Host: For the Fans of the Book, but Not

Updated on December 12, 2017

If you've read my series of hubs on text-to-film adaptation, you know I really don't like the phrase "the book was better." Considering the different requirements of text and film, a full qualitative comparison is problematic at best.

That being said, I'm fine comparing books to books.

Stephanie Meyer's novel The Host, in my opinion, is far superior to the Twilight books. But it is also much more un-film-able.

And some may say that this film adaptation is proof of that. Some, maybe. We'll get to that later.

But first, the story

As the movie begins (with a voiceover by William Hurt) the Earth has been invaded and conquered by a species of glowing hairy sea cucumbers that call themselves 'souls'. They bond themselves with hosts and take over their lives, leaving a glowing ring in the eyes as the only sign of their presence.

But it turns out there are a few humans in hiding.

One of these humans is Melanie Stryder (Saoirse Ronan). She's been hiding with her kid brother Jamie (Chandler Canterbury) and her *ahem* special friend, Jared (Max Irons).

When Melanie is close to being caught, rather than let her body—and as a result, her memories—be taken over and put Jared and Jamie in danger, she jumps from a window in an attempt to take her own life. She survives, broken and battered, and the souls heal her up and insert a soul into her neck: Wanderer. Wanderer is to help a certain seeker—creatively credited as The Seeker (Diane Kruger)—to find what they can of the remaining humans

However, rather than go quietly into the night, Melanie holds on. She can't exactly control her body, but she maintains her own voice inside the head of her body's new tenant.

The two actually begin to grow close. And because of the strength of Melanie's love for her old hide and seek buddies, Wanderer starts to feel the same. Together, they end up wandering out into the desert to find Melanie's uncle—Jeb (Hurt, once again in a sci-fi movie with a population with glowing eyes)—who turns out to have quite the hiding place for several humans.

When the humans do find her, they know they can't trust her. But even so, she begins to get close to several of them. Especially the impulsive Ian (Jake Abel), and the gentle Doc (Scott Lawrence).

But little miss The Seeker refuses to let her just disappear.

Dot dot dot

There are similarities with previous Stephanie Meyer works, but mostly cursory ones.

For instance, once again, we have a female lead who appears emotionless for like 95% of the time, but this time it's from the writing, not the casting.

There's also even what you might call a love triangle, though that's not quite accurate.

In this case, Boy A loves Girl B, who loves him back. Boy C loves Parasite D in Girl B's body. Because of Girl B's emotions, Parasite D loves Boy A as well, but begins to have her own feelings for Boy C. It's more like two love lines that cross in a knot.

(And I'll tell you right now, I was always on team Ian.)

I'm having a little trouble reviewing this one. When they adapted Breaking Dawn, they made two movies when they definitely could have just made one longish one. In stead, each movie had a little over half a movie's worth of story and they had to fill the rest with a fair amount of boring setup.

The Host, however, has the opposite problem. In order to fit the whole story into one 125 minute movie, they end up glossing over a lot of character development.

Not that I'm advocating splitting it into two movies. I seriously don't know where they could split it at all.

But the movie definitely needs more character moments. We really need something to help explain character decisions, relationships and motivations. As it is, characters make decisions that feel unmotivated. People fall in love with little to no development of the relationship.

And I was surprised by that fact. I am a serious fan of writer/director Andrew Niccol's existential movie Gattaca. And that movie is somewhere around 90% character moments.

But this story needs more time than what they gave it.

For instance, there's little indication of just how long Wanderer lives with the humans, making it seem like they want to kill her in the morning, and kiss her that night.

My difficulty is that, since I've read the book, I already went to the movie knowing the characters and why they do what they do.

Try the book for yourself

So fans of the book should be able to understand and enjoy the movie. However, there are a number of changes in the tone and development of the story. Both big and small. But some fans of the book might have a hard time accepting some of them.

  • The Seeker's deep secret is revealed too early for my taste.
  • The Seeker embraces violence a bit too easily, though I can understand that.
  • There's a whole lot more action overall, but that's common in movies.
  • Doc was one of my favorite characters, and he barely appears in the movie.

And the movie really needs to stop taking itself so seriously. Yes, the situation is dour and dire, but the characters need to be more than merely a survivalist clique. They need lives, and love, and humor, and soccer. But they don't take the time for any of that.

In the end, if you've read the book, and you can accept all the changes to the story, this is a fine movie. Not great but fine.

But effective in some ways. As it ended, I actually had tingles.

Oh, and for those of you who've read the book, the reveal of the final scene is reversed. And I actually think it's more effective this way. Maybe that's the reason for the tingles?

But what do you think?

3 out of 5 stars from 1 rating of The Host

So, I have a hard time rating this movie. I can't exactly see it the way I would have had I never read the book. Objectively, with the lack of character moments and motivations, the movie would probably be a 5 / 10. Maybe even a 4. But for me, having read the book and everything, it's a 7 / 10.

The Host is rated PG-13 for some sensuality, a little violence, and kinda just being such a downer most of the time.


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