Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Host

There Can Be Only One

This is Stephenie Meyer's other book outside of her Twilight series, and what makes it a tad interesting is the science fictional element which is a spin out of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, combined with romance that only Meyer knows how to get through its convoluted best with love triangles, or rectangles now. It's a fairly troubled film project with directors coming and going, until Andrew Niccol, famed for Gattaca and In Time, came to seal the deal at the helm. Having responsibility to adapt Meyer's story for the screen, this and Saoirse Ronan's participation as the lead, will pique interest, at least at first.

What gave this film a leg up, is its science fiction premise. The resources of Earth are now being used wisely and perfectly, and voila, the planet is thriving once again, reversing the pollution and muck that us humans have been responsible for. Homo-sapiens are still around though, but now our consciousness have been replaced by "Souls", alien lifeforms who thrive by co-opting the bodies of the planetary hosts, and given that they're peace loving, and scientifically more advanced with a penchant for all things chrome, and for standardization to cut waste - all cars are Ferraris and bikes are Ducatis - they are now rulers of the planet, with all that's left is to eradicate the remaining human beings.

Wait a minute, peace loving, and yet annihilation (through pain free means no doubt) going hand in hand? Yes, something's basically wrong here, but the narrative doesn't dwell too much on this. The aliens come with different roles and names that suit their functions, so it's left to Seekers (Diane Kruger) to weed out the remaining pockets of resistance, and in doing so we begin with the capture of Melanie (Ronan), whose almost dying body in a desperate suicide attempt meant the assimilation of the Wanderer/Wanda Soul into her body, only for Melanie to prove to have a stronger mind that first though, and so two minds inhabit the same body, leading to, well, as much cliches as possible.

Ronan probably have her work cut out for her, and she excels in her role of split personality really well. It's like Gollum talking to himself, except that here we're reliant on voice overs and her deadpan expression when Melanie becomes the one who's talking/thinking/directing the body's actions. Adversary is set up with The Seeker wanting Wanderer to dig deep into the recesses of Melanie's memory to fish out the hiding place of her rebel friends and family, while Melanie plays hard ball in trying to block those images out. As it progresses, having two minds sharing the same body meant something going to give, and in this case, it's basically schizophrenia as the two ladies for quite the perfect sisterhood in due course.

But to get there, here's where Meyer brings out the gravy train for her Twilight fan base. It's not enough to have two hot guys falling in love with one girl now, but having two hot guys falling in love with one girl possessing two minds. The conundrum here is of course the sharing of one single body, and like Siamese Twins, you really can't separate one consciousness from the other when things get a little bit frisky. While this may be a little bit of a situation to handle both emotionally and physically, how it played out tend to be unintentionally comedic, and this meant losing impact to the entire relationship between the characters, whom you won't feel much for, and only made worse.

The strengths of the film lay in its premise, but unfortunately that wasn't exploited much to build up the world that it's now is. Its focus on romance was inevitable, but this became the lowest denominator without real depth, and hankered much of the plot with cheesy dialogue and situations that bordered on the absurd, sometimes conveniently writing out the Melanie consciousness without any attempt at explanation, sort of like a light switch that can be turned on or off, with the switch controls being lip locks and plenty of caressing to elicit a response.

If only the same can be said of the film's less interesting bits. Max Irons and Jake Abel as the male lovers now become the rare flower vase whose presence were really rote and as superficial as can be, while Emily Browning's uncredited star appearance only pointed to the promise of a sequel if this could make decent amounts at the box office should Meyer's fan base turn up for the party. Even if Andrew Niccol was at his best, which he was not, couldn't have saved this one.

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