March 29th, 2013
I don’t believe it. My prediction was incorrect. I can’t believe I’m saying this.
The book was better.
Oh my god, this was terrible.
Okay, first the necessary notes:
As usual, I read the book before the movie came out, as is my compulsion, so I can review the movie from the underrepresented reader’s perspective. However, in this case, reader’s perspective does not translate to fan’s perspective for me. You can read my review of The Host novel here, but in short I consider it a bland, overlong, gutless C+.
I still held out some minor hopes for the movie. Stephanie Meyer books have a track record of being made into movies that I like better than the source material, thanks to heavy necessary cuts and directors and screenwriters who have some semblance of boldness and a sense of humor, and the two-souls-in-one-body-alien-apocalypse premise of The Host had plenty of untapped potential.
What a waste.
The plus next to the F is there for three reasons. First, Diane Kruger as the Seeker. She does the best she can with what she’s given, doesn’t make me laugh for the wrong reasons at all, and is all-around awesome. Second, all the things that did make me laugh for the wrong reasons. As a whole, the movie’s much too boring to be classified as “so bad it’s good,” but there are plenty of isolated moments that fall into that category, between the breathy, over-explained, melodramatic dialogue, one terribly choreographed car accident, and the way the porno logic of Wanderer making out with two men to try to resurrect Melanie becomes even more absurd and gratuitous when visuals are added. Third, one tiny detail that wasn’t in the book. After the aliens have taken over, there’s no money or brand competition anymore, and the survivors at one point raid a grocery store that’s simply labeled “Store.” It made me laugh for the right reason, so I must give it due respect.
Holy shit, this could take a while.
First of all, everything that’s wrong with the book is still wrong with the movie, only more so. As moviemaking demands, a few unnecessary subplots are gone, but that only leaves more time for the main plot to plod through scene after scene of slow, quiet, polite talking for 125 agonizing minutes.
Oh, and one of the details lost in the edits is the rather important guilt the main male characters feel for repeatedly beating the shit out of something that still looks like a human woman.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m the reader who’s always yelling at excessively principled male superheroes to fight back when they’re letting themselves be beaten by female supervillains just because they’re female, but Wanderer’s no supervillain. There’s something very, very awkward about the way she openly lusts after two men who’ve both physically attacked her at times when she’s posed absolutely no threat, without even displaying the minor internal conflict about it that the book had time for.
And that’s not all that’s been sucked out of the male characters. It’s hard enough to differentiate between all the painfully bland, noble characters in the book, with their different-looking names spelled out right there on the page. Replace that text with a roomful of bland, scowling, vaguely blond men, and it’s damn near impossible.
Again, these are all preexisting problems with the book that the movie made worse instead of fixing. So if, like me, you’re not a fan of the book and were hoping for some improvement, the movie is a disappointment. If, on the other hand, you are a fan of the book, I’d lay odds that the movie is still a disappointment, because on top of the bland, slow, low-stakes writing, the movie also offers terrible (and I mean really, really terrible) acting.
The whole story of The Host hinges on the assumption that Melanie has one of the strongest wills humanity has ever produced. That’s why she stays conscious in her body along with Wanderer so drama can ensue. I couldn’t entirely buy this in the book, where Melanie is, at best, a thoroughly ordinary character, but the movie’s Melanie (Saoirse Ronan) is the downright whiniest, most uncertain, short-sighted, indecisive voice anyone could ever have stuck in her head. The idea that even someone as similarly weak as Wanderer (same actress) could fail to snuff her out, let alone actually do as she says and learn to love her, makes my brain leak.
So… not catching this one on DVD.