Approaching a film that was based on a Stephanie Meyer novel can be a dicey proposition. The woman behind the Twilight series of books that later spawned a series of films that scores of women young and old flocked to is attempting to break out into ground past that cast shadow. And while The Host shares its name with the 2006 Korean horror film, one could very well assert that it is a horror of a different kind.
Andrew Niccol (In Time) adapted Meyer's novel into a screenplay which he also directed. The film is set in the not too distant future, where humans are a rarity and eradicated when possible. They are captured and â€˜souls' or â€˜new consciousness' are introduced into them, thus making the humans vessels for these souls in an alien infection of sorts. Melanie (Saoirse Ronan, Hanna) was a rambunctious human who eventually succumbed to the souls and has one inside her, and she is renamed "Wanderer." Despite this new persona, Melanie is still inside the body, providing an internal monologue of sorts. So she exerts some control over Wanderer's decisions, and flees to the desert where Melanie's Uncle Jeb (William Hurt, A History Of Violence) is residing, along with a few other non-assimilated humans, avoiding the souls who are trying to find them. Among those souls, perhaps the best one at finding humans is The Seeker (Diane Kruger, Inglourious Basterds).
While Wanderer is with Jeb, she is isolated from the other humans, partially because of what some of the humans may do to her if they know she is there. Some of the humans take a liking to her and even nickname her Wanda. She also finds out Melanie's boyfriend Jared (Max Irons, Red Riding Hood) and brother Jamie (Chandler Canterbury, Repo Men) are also there too, and they deal with their own feelings about what Melanie/Wanda has become. Wanda also discovers what some of the humans are doing to captured souls as well and wants to try and do something about it.
I am not sure who decided to green light such a project, but it seems like in Melanie/Wanda Meyer watched Innerspace a bunch of times and tried to make a serious, science fiction version of it. Ronan continues to emerge as a talented young star, carrying most of the action in a big budget film yet again, the problem is with this one is the story is so silly and full of itself that you are left wondering why Ronan would squander her time with a film like this. The exposition is boring, and the second and third acts which follow it are simply nothing more than conflicts and actions that occur in countless other films before it. Not only does the ending take entirely too long to get to where it needs to be, an additional scene at the end seems to set up for a sequel that nobody is crying out for.
The young actors that Ronan plays off of are decent in their performances, though hardly anything about what they do and how they do it is noteworthy in any way. As for the more recognizable grown up faces, Hurt is okay, though it should be noted that his southern accent is a little distracting at times. Considering his prior work you could even say he may be overcompensating a bit. Kruger is decent albeit unspectacular, and Frances Fisher (Titanic) shows up for a scene or two, and is ultimately forgettable.
It can be safely said that The Host does not live up to other adaptations of Stephanie Meyer novels. So if we use the prior work as a calibration setting of sorts for your expectations, The Host will be disappointing at best, or downright dreadful at worst. Stephanie Meyer's work precedes herself with me to some degree, but throwing that bias out of the window, this is just a bad movie, with no way around it whatsoever.
Universal rolls The Host out to blu-ray with an AVC-encoded 2.40:1 presentation. The New Mexico desert shots look excellent and possess a good amount of detail, while the closer shots reveal detail in facial hair, pores and freckles (in Ronan's case). When the seekers head out on the road, the bright silver of the cars and motorcycles reflects the sun almost to the point of squinting. Film grain is present during viewing, colors are reproduced accurately and the black levels in the scenes are high and fairly consistent. While being less than palatable, the film sure doth look pretty.
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless surround, not much of a surprise either, and sounds quite good. Dialogue is nicely balanced and requires little adjustment, breaking glass in the opening scenes of the movie is clear and pans quite nicely, the thud of a truck slamming into a concrete wall rumbles the subwoofer, among sonic highlights of the film. The listening experience through the movie was solid, albeit unspectacular.
The big thing is a commentary with Meyer, Niccol and producer Nick Wechsler. The commentary does not add much; Meyer occasionally touches on character motivations not found or covered in the movie, while Niccol provides occasional recollection on the production. The trio are recorded together and the track features prolonged gaps of silence when watching the movie which they recognize (good) but do nothing about (bad). It is underwhelming. "Bringing The Host to Life" (7:42) is self-explanatory, with Meyer discussing her thoughts on the story and the cast, while the cast discusses the story and working with one another. Four deleted scenes (2:39) are hardly worthwhile unless one wants to see more of Ronan in the desert, while a "Seeker PSA" (1;16) is an in-character piece designed to promote the film. The disc also comes with a standard definition copy (where the screengrabs originate) along with digital copies on the iTunes and Ultraviolet services for your particular flavor of bourbon.
I am still not sure what The Host was designed to be. Was it a follow-up to Stephanie Meyer's money-making series designed to carve a niche into the sci-fi world? Was it a romance? Was it supposed to send some sort of message on the inner conflicts of life? Whatever it was, it was certainly not any of those, as it was two hours of bland drama masquerading as storytelling. Technically, the disc looks and sounds fine, and the supplements (while intriguing) are ultimately disappointing. Best left to the teenaged girl in your life to check out for herself. Wait, that sounds weirdâ€¦