Movie Review: The Host

Wow, I feel like I’ve been had. Is it because it’s a holiday weekend? I thought studios love to snag people in with big movies during holiday weekends. But the only new releases this week were G.I. Joe, some Tyler Perry movie, and The Host.

I’d never heard of The Host, and all the better, I thought to myself. Here’s a chance to really do an honest film review. No marketing campaigns or commercials to influence my opinions beforehand. No, without any preconceived notions, I’d be able to truly judge a motion picture based on what I thought, what I felt.

Well, almost. Right as I was buying my ticket in the theater, I noticed a The Host movie poster. “From the makers of Twilight,” it read. Damn. The ticket lady directed me toward theater one, a room full of teenage girls, the occasional senior citizen, and me, at eleven in the morning on a Friday.

OK, the movie … jeez, I don’t know where to start. I guess I’ll mention that I’ve never actually seen Twilight, so I can’t really give an apt comparison, but I’ve read reviews about Twilight, I’ve seen tons of shows and online videos making fun of Twilight, so yeah, this movie was pretty much like Twilight. Except there aren’t any vampires. There are aliens.

The opening exposition cuts right to the chase, as the main character, Melanie, tells us how we’ve gotten to where we are. Aliens have invaded the earth, these little silver glowing worm aliens. They’re not invading, the invasion is already over. I don’t know how much trouble the first few aliens had in taking over individual earthlings, because they’re so tiny and delicate. They get beamed to our planet in these small silver pods and physically bond with and seize control of individual human beings. But it’s weird because, in order for this to happen, already-possessed humans have to perform a surgical operation on a non-possessed human for the little guys to weasel their way inside.

Backstory isn’t super important, I guess. They’re here. They’ve taken over nearly the whole world. And they’ve brought harmony. They don’t fight. They don’t pollute the planet. Everything’s just great.

Except there are a few remaining humans living like fugitives. The main character, Melanie, she’s caught right away at the beginning. Rather than succumb to the invaders, she chooses suicide, leaping through some pane glass out of a fourth or fifth story window. But she survives. This one’s a fighter. The aliens put an alien inside of her. We can tell because her eyes start glowing. Oh yeah, all of the possessed humans, their eyes all glow bright blue.

I could never wrap my head around this plot device, mostly because the aliens, spending so much time trying to locate the resistance, desperately trying to smoke out any remaining humans, they never think to maybe put on some contact lenses. The eyes are always the dead giveaway of who’s possessed and who’s not.

The alien in Melanie’s body, her name is Wanderer, and at first she’s put in charge of finding the remaining humans, of eliminating the resistance. But that same fighting spirit that helped Melanie survive that fall? You guessed it: it allows her to somehow survive the mind-meld. She’s still around, albeit as a sassy disembodied echo-voice with a Southern accent. But the aliens don’t have Southern accents, just regular accents.

As she struggles to assert dominance in Wanderer’s new body, we learn more of Melanie’s alliterative backstory, about her kid brother Jamie, her boyfriend Jarred, her uncle Jeb. She convinces Wanderer to escape the alien city, to make her way to the desert, where we find the rest of the survivors, living in some intricate network of pretty cozy looking caves. Her uncle Jeb “found” them, somehow. There’s a hospital inside the caves. And electricity. And running hot water. Also, there’s a gigantic system of crank operated mirrors that allow them to grow acres and acres of underground wheat. But they have to retract the mirrors every time an alien helicopter flies by, because you know, they don’t want to get caught. It turns out the whole process is a lot easier than I’d imagine.

The rest of the movie is just this long weird series of events. The Seekers are trying to hunt down the resistance. Melanie’s boyfriend and family at first treat Wanderer like a prisoner, but then they grow to love her. Melanie rekindles her romance. But Wanderer develops a romance for someone else. There’s a lot of perfectly groomed and shaved refugees staring longingly at each other, almost about to kiss, but then fighting off their temptation, because, I don’t know, I guess that’s a teenage problem or something.

What really stuck out to me was that the overall plot of the movie resembled the radical right’s exaggerated fears of what a liberal America might do to God’s favorite country. The aliens are sleek, sophisticated. They live in cities with socialized medicine, socialized everything, there is no more money at all. They wear all white. They drive chrome sports cars, fly chrome helicopters, zip around in chrome motorcycles. They complain in their northern accents that humans are barbaric, polluters of the environment. They shop for big boxes labeled “food” and jugs labeled “water” in big warehouses labeled “Store.” It’s big government at it’s worst, controlling the lives of every citizen, punishing, overbearing, cracking down on dissent in all forms.

The resistance is the real America, down to earth people with real Southern accents, listenin’ to country music, slingin’ shotguns, sayin’ stuff like, “I reckon,” and “ain’t” and “for a spell.” When Wanderer successfully fights off the advances of an admiring boy, Melanie screams in her head, “Hallelujah! (pronounced Hah-luh-LOO-ya!)

Wanderer falls in love with the real America. They rename her Wanda. She says that after being alive for one thousand years, spending her time amongst countless worlds, this is the hardest but most beautiful life in the whole galaxy. It’s American exceptionalism on a cosmic scale.

Now I just feel bad, tearing apart this movie that’s clearly intended for an audience that I’m not a part of. Still, maybe I wouldn’t mind all of the cheesiness if the movie weren’t so boring. The plot isn’t really a plot at all. It’s solipsistic. Most of the movie is the main character talking to herself, about boys, about feelings, about how feelings are hard. Whatever it’s for teenagers.

What was I watching when I was a teenager? Face-Off, The Water Boy, Starship Troopers. I guess it’s a hard market to sell stuff to. Actually, it’s a really easy market to sell stuff to. I don’t know. Next week I’m going to see Evil Dead, so come back and read the review.

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