Friday, April 19, 2013

'The Host' doesn't offer anything new

New film adequate substitute for book with weak plotline

By Kelsey Mejlaender, Copy Editor

After the tween-powered success of the first three “Twilight” novels, Stephenie Meyer decided to write a new epic romance about the love between a human and an — alien? At first, the choice seems a little unexpected.
   
But Meyer, who turned bloodthirsty monsters into sexy, sparkly vegetarians, could hardly be expected to create the typical ugly alien — no offense E.T.
   
Instead, she brought readers the Souls, aliens who inhabit the bodies of other species, completely taking over that ‘host’s’ body.

   
The twist in the story is that human Melanie Stryder, who is invaded by an alien named Wanderer, isn’t willing to go down without a fight. She plagues Wanderer with thoughts and memories of her brother Jamie and — you guessed it — the great love of her life, Jared.
   
Wanderer eventually comes to love Jared and Jamie through Melanie’s memories, and betrays her species to try to find the human resistance community the two are living with.
   
“The Host” premiered in theaters at the end of March and unlike the “Twilight” movies, barely made a blip on the box office radar.
   
Perhaps fans of the fangless vampires couldn’t make the transition from fantasy to science fiction. Or maybe they just couldn’t get through the prologue.
   
The book is a ponderous tome that makes some versions of the Bible look petite. Despite the many slow moments in the story, it can be fascinating to read Wanderer and Melanie’s interactions from within the same body.
   
Through Wanderer’s thoughts and Melanie’s memories, both become fully realized, if not always satisfactory, characters. Wanderer is the protagonist with her point of view dominant, but Melanie’s significance as a leading character cannot be denied either.
  
On the downside, the romance, which is a pretty big plot point, has a weak origin story.
   
The love story of Melanie and Jared is scarcely even skimmed over, jumping from their first meeting to their declarations of love.
   
The audience is only told, not shown, about their heartfelt conversations and bonding.
   
What we are shown is entirely physical. There’s no shortage of rushing pulses, heated skin, and breathy passion.
   
The most irritating aspect of the book is how much Wanderer is like Bella 2.0. She even describes herself as “pathetically defenseless,” always cowering in a corner, frightened of the big, bad humans.
   
What makes this even more disheartening is that the start of the book tries to describe both Melanie and Wanderer as exceptionally strong.
   
Wanderer is obsessed with this sense of her strength, and is determined to not show weakness.
   
It’s a shame that her strength becomes obsolete, and her personality is almost entirely drained away.
   
The movie suffers from many similar flaws. The plot has its fast-paced moments, but it also provides scene after scene where the story drags.
   
The love development happens so quickly that when my friend came back to the movie after a five-minute bathroom break, she asked, “they’re in love already?”
   
The movie does have its perks, however. The special effects are elegantly beautiful and lead actress Saoirse Ronan, one of the youngest people to earn an Oscar nomination for her role in “Atonement,” masterfully portrayed the conflicting dual roles of Wanderer and Melanie.

It’s true Wanderer is not the most gung-ho of characters — when escaping her fellow aliens to join the humans, she’s still in heels and continues to wear them while she treks through a desert for days.
   
Still, it’s nice not to have to read about how often she shrinks against the wall, or feels frightened, or is pretty much described as a useless coward page after page.
   
So skim through the book, and don’t be afraid to skip ahead. The movie is a competent, and timelier substitute.