Two Souls, One Bodily Experience
In the book worlds of Stephenie Meyer, and many other Young Adult authors, teenage characters, specifically girls, are the vehicles that bring danger, rescue, and romantic love into their communities with the same pace that their stories are made into films. “The Host,” directed by Andrew Niccol (In Time), is the latest Meyer adaptation, about a four-month layoff for all of her hung-over Twilight fans yearning to find another love triangle to be reopened and melodramatized. Their hopes in that respect are fulfilled. This time, substitute vampires and werewolves with alien vectors and a dwindling human population in a post-apocalyptic world and you get, well, something entirely predictable and everything you’d expect.
This is something the genre has relied upon, a special understanding that teenage girls will continue to lap up the emotional complexities of pubescent life. When their hormones mature however, a new crowd of Young Adult consumers has been waiting in line and is happy to carry the torch in seeing up and coming actresses bridge humanity with the inhuman. This time they look to Saoirse Ronan, a fine actress whose short career has thrived on mature roles in mostly adult-centric films like her entrancing physical performance in Hanna. Here, she appears to enjoy the pleasures of acting in a younger demographic focused film, but is probably well aware of her limitations, too.
“The Host” might have been a good film if it weren’t tethered to the tropes of boyfriend romance and love’s sacrifice. Of course, it also suffers, as many of these films do, from cramming as many themes inside its two-hour time frame as it can. Ronan plays Melanie, a girl we only see embodied for a few minutes until an alien life form is implanted into her neck. On their own, arachnid-shaped silver creatures, they have taken over the earth, one of the many planets they have inhabited, using former humans as “hosts.” Their apparent job is to purify; they wear white, drive the speed limit, and always tell the truth. To distinguish themselves from the remaining humans is a silver circle emblazoned over their iris.
Melanie’s body is subverted by her alien invader named Wanderer, but unlike regularly submissive human souls, Melanie’s still exists in the alien body. She’s a rare fighter and initiates internal dialogue with Wanderer who becomes an emotional prisoner to Melanie’s memories and sensibilities. Instead of following commands and giving away information to her “seeker” played by Diane Kruger, Wanderer escapes to find Melanie’s friends and family hiding away in the desert.
Influenced by memories of Melanie’s boyfriend Jared (Max Irons) and little brother, she finds them hosting other remaining humans in a hollowed-out cave. Her uncle Jeb (William Hurt) sees her eyes and knows Melanie has been turned, but she’s not like the other aliens. This is also the debate between Jared and his friends, who in the course of about ten minutes want to kill her and then defend her. If the eyes are the windows to the soul, then Melanie’s is gone, but maybe Wanda (Jeb shortened her name) has one, too.
It’s not as confusing as it all sounds, but it is preposterous, especially during a scene in which Wanda must make out with her own love interest Ian (Jake Abel) and then Melanie’s boyfriend back to back in order to get Melanie’s inner dialogue back in her head. It’s an amusing back and forth they share. “You can’t kiss him, he’s my boyfriend!” Team Jacob and Edward are replaced with Team Jared and Ian, but technically this isn’t a love triangle. As one person said after seeing it, it’s more of a love square.
Semantics aside, Ronan does double duty acting as a mild schizophrenic, verbalizing Wanda’s thoughts to Melanie’s conscience. For a story like this to make sense on screen, some logistics must undergo tepid examination. Like the vast cave hotel the human rebellion has created, a labyrinth of rock tunnels and an interior grown wheat field from a masterfully designed mirror system. How did they do that? They all must hide from the alien search parties in their metallic helicopters and sedans. Wanda’s presence is a burden and blessing, a threat and a possible way out. Sorting out her romances however appears to be the more pressing issue at hand.
Nothing really changes in these stories except for character names, environments, and the antagonists that make life hard. Following this year’s Beautiful Creatures and Warm Bodies, The Host, if it wasn’t already engrained into us, exclaims that a fighting, loving spirit cannot be corrupted. Yes, the human soul still exists and it wants nothing more than to kiss a boy in a wheat field under the pouring rain.