Tuesday, 12 January 2016

The Host (3 Stars)

There seem to have been a lot of films called "The Host" over the last 50 years. I'm reviewing the 2013 science fiction film starring Saoirse Ronan. At its core it's a love story, but it's a very twisted love story.

In the near future the Earth has been invaded and conquered by an enemy race called the Souls. They are parasitic beings that enter the bodies of humans and control them. Humans controlled by the Souls are easily recognisable, because their eyes shine with a circle of light. Almost all of the human race is controlled by the Souls. There are only small isolated pockets of resistance.

Melanie Stryder is a resistance fighter. When a mission goes wrong she attempts to kill herself rather than be captured, but she survives the suicide attempt and a Soul takes its place in her body. The Soul's name is Wanderer, which is shortened to Wanda later in the film. Usually when a Soul controls a human the human mind disappears altogether, as if in a permanent coma, but Melanie's strong will allows her to remain conscious and speak to Wanda. Melanie battles to regain control of her body, but Wanda is too strong for her to succeed. The two beings speak to one another throughout the film. In some parts the voices are both in the mind, being presented as voice-over. In other parts Wanda speaks aloud, while Melanie replies in the mind, again as a voice-over.

Wanda has access to Melanie's memories, so she goes to visit the resistance cell that Melanie belonged to. After a car crash Wanda is captured by the resistance. Since Melanie can't speak, they don't know that she is still alive inside Wanda.

Now the story gets complicated. Wanda becomes sympathetic with the resistance's cause, mainly due to Melanie telling her how good they are. Melanie's boyfriend Jared hates Wanda, because she has taken control of Melanie's body, and he tries to kill her. Another boy, Ian, falls in love with Wanda, but every time they become romantic Melanie is yelling at her to stop. Eventually Jared realises that Melanie is still conscious inside Wanda, so he begins a relationship with her. This means that two girls who share the same body are having relationships with two different boys.

This is a very original story. It would have been more successful in the hands of a more experienced director like Spike Jonze. As it is, it becomes very confusing at times, especially when the two girls are arguing in their mind. Since the same voice is used it's not always obvious which is Melanie and which is Wanda. It's only apparent in the scenes where Wanda is speaking the words out loud.

The film is based on a novel by Stephenie Meyer. She has announced that the novel is the first part of a trilogy, but the other two books haven't been written yet. This means that the film ends without resolving all the issues. We probably need to wait another few years for the continuation.

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