PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

'The Host''s Conflicted Valley Girl

Most of this film’s running time is spent as Wanderer and Melanie engage in a Gollum-like discourse; one trying to save her loved ones, the other trying to find the humanity that might exist in her.

The Host

Director: Andrew Niccol
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Diane Kruger, William Hurt
Distributor: Universal
Rated: PG-13
Release date: 2013-07-09

Based on Stephenie Meyer’s bestselling novel, The Host is yet another proof that Hollywood will try to turn literally anything into a movie. Meyer of Twilight fame, has wrought yet another insipid romance involving humans and a different species (aliens in this case), if only to prove that she’s actually capable of selling rights to her Danielle Steele by way of Stephen King pseudo-literature and that audiences will still eat it up. It’s a sad realization of where our culture is, and an infuriating reminder that we have to start demanding that the industry makes better movies.

It’s a shame that The Host is so terrible, because it’s directed by Andrew Niccol (who also wrote the screenplay), the mastermind behind the criminally underrated Gattaca, which was one of the best science fiction movies of the last 20 years. It seems that in adapting Meyer’s book, Niccol’s creative juices were drained by the studio’s money making pressures and the adaptation is so uninspired and lacking, that it makes us wish we were reading the book, instead.

Academy Award nominee Saoirse Ronan plays Melanie Stryder, a courageous young woman trying to stop an alien invasion... or something like that. The scene is supposed to be set during a time when body snatching aliens have invaded the planet, taken over human bodies and are working to eradicate the last remaining human beings. The thing is that once they take over you (through a strange procedure), your human soul vanishes, yet in Melanie’s case, she remains behind and the body ends up being occupied by her and the alien whom she calls Wanderer. Most of the film’s running time is spent as Wanderer and Melanie engage in a Gollum-like discourse; one trying to save her loved ones, the other trying to find the humanity that might exist in her.

Hot on their heels they have the Seeker (Diane Kruger) a ruthless alien agent whose purpose is to find one of the last remaining pockets of humans. At some point during the movie, Melanie and Wanderer run into one of the groups, but instead of turning it into a quasi-Exodus, the movie has both “characters” fall in love with different beefcakes. This too, could’ve been interesting to see if the characters’ dilemmas were slightly more complex, but instead, when the movie ends, we are convinced that this particular kind of alien invader would pretty much turn everyone into a conflicted valley girl. It certainly doesn’t help that most of the movie we’re forced to listen to Melanie and Wanderer fight inside Melanie’s head, as the characters around them make funny faces and agree she needs a therapist more than an alien exorcism.

When you have a cast that includes William Hurt, Frances Fisher, Kruger and especially Ronan, it’s very disappointing to find yourself watching a movie where you struggle to know what’s happening because you simply don’t care anymore. If this is the reason why Meyer named the character Wanderer, then it’s a clever tongue in cheek thing, but to even suggest this is trying too hard to make sense of a story that reduces all its characters to clichés.

It’s sad to see Ronan being so wasted, especially when she still somehow manages to be interesting to watch. We actually see her acting and making an effort to make sense of the nonsense she’s made to say and do, but other than proving that she definitely has leading lady material, this is a disappointment in a career that promised so much. Comparisons to Twilight abound and somehow those movies feel better than this, because even the leading men are dull here. We get Jake Abel and Max Irons making Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner feel like Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine...

Perhaps it sounds unfair to be so harsh on a movie that promised very little to begin with, but this is done with the intention of making us ask ourselves what will it take for us as a society to snap out of the mediocrity we’re being fed on a daily basis? Why do we have to wait for endless teenage romances where an earthling falls for an exotic creature? Why can’t they at least try to tweak the formula a bit? By the time we get the next Twilight we won’t even be able to determine when did one saga ended and the next one began. When did escapism become synonymous with mental numbing?

The Host is presented in a wonderful HD transfer which allows for DP Roberto Schaefer’s work to look just great, but even his pretty lighting schemes aren’t enough to make the movie bearable. Bonus features include a bunch of deleted scenes, a making of documentary and feature commentary with Meyer, Niccol and producer Nick Wechsler, who all seem to be watching a different movie than the one we’re presented with.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.


Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.


Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.


Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.


In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.


When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.


20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.


The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.


Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.