When it comes to movies based on Stephanie Meyer’s books, I’m not expecting realism; after all, this is a teen-romance market, and I don’t expect sophistication of narrative to be the primary concern.
Having said that, I do expect a modicum of logic to the storyline. Say what you will about the Twilight franchise, and I personally am a fan because of the crazy melodrama rather than despite it, but it was a universe with its own wacky laws and for the most part it stuck to them. Should vampires sparkle in the sun? Probably not, but then again neither should they be endlessly unsleeping. However, that’s what Meyer’s vampires did, and they did it consistently.
Likewise, the pack dynamics for the wolves and the idea of Jacob’s attraction to Bella being based on his soon-to-be imprinting on her daughter was bizarre, but established and explained within the creative laws of nature and physics Meyer laid down with such abandon.
With “The Host,” however, all logic appears to have been discarded and the narrative isn’t even consistent within itself.
To begin, let’s consider the aliens that have taken over humanity. Clearly, they are an invading species. They have conquered multiple worlds, possessing the inhabitants of each and “bettering” the populations and atmospheres through their tyranny of courtesy and socialism. They may consider their actions benevolent, but the end result is involuntary annihilation of entire species’ consciousness, replaced by pod-beings.
After setting up the entire story to revolve around the human resistance and the guerilla warfare taking place internally between the alien parasite and the original consciousness of our heroine, the film takes a trip into hocus-pocus, ret-con land by abruptly introducing the idea that the creatures can’t be forced out from their host bodies but instead respond only to the gentle coaxing of kindness and love. Suddenly, they’re not the enemy so much as the gentle soul-creatures we must handle with love.
But even assuming that the aliens (or “Souls” as they are dubbed in the film) aren’t as bad as they first appear, there’s the matter of how they started their inter-stellar journeys in the first place. They travel through space in high-tech metalloid pods. Once they arrive, they are implanted carefully through an incision made in the back of the host’s neck. So … how did the first one inhabit a human body? Who made the incision in the first host’s neck and gently coaxed the glowing Soul-creature from its pod? For that matter, who built the pods that (presumably) carried the creatures from their home planet if they never had corporeal form to manipulate matter? I suppose it’s possible that when the Souls visited other planets and inhabited other races they were able to do so through a more direct entry-means (i.e., through skin, nostrils, etc.), but that still doesn’t explain how the process was initiated on Earth.
Of course, all that pales in comparison to the most grievous choice in story-telling of all: the incessant internal/external dialogue occurring between out heroine’s “inner voice” and the physical voice of her Soul-driven body. While this concept might have worked well on page, and I freely admit not having read the book to know if this was the approach taken in the novel, it is clunky and distracting on-screen.
The more compelling way to tell this tale would have been for the audience, just as the other characters, to hear only the “spoken” side of the communication and to thus be left wondering who exactly is in charge of the body for much of the film and when/to what degree that changes.
If one element of this story remains true to its source, it’s Meyer’s love for the two boys/one girl formula. “The Host” introduced a somewhat intriguing twist with the notion that this love triangle is actually a quadrangle, with both Melanie (our heroine) and Wanderer (the Soul inhabiting her body) in love with different men. The film flirts with edginess as it teases the audience with the idea that somehow both relationships will be pursued with the body/symbiote fusion in place. But any hope for this psychologically intriguing premise is soon stamped out. Instead, we get a tidy, convenient resolution involving a fortuitously available host body and a transference of consciousness.
In the end, not even the excellent location shots or the everyday charm of the cast can save “The Host” from descending into illogic and sentiment for sentiment’s sake.
Maybe I’m too cynical to be the target audience. Maybe the Twilight franchise had a better story. Maybe I just like vampires better than glowing space slugs. Whatever the case, this film is sadly lackluster with not even the melodrama of “Twilight” to make it memorable or incite any true passion in terms of audience reaction.
If this film was a dessert, it would be a vanilla wafer — innocuous, blandly pleasurable and no-one’s first choice.