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The Host (2013)

Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 7/9/2013

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/1/2013

When it comes to the Twilight series, there doesn't seem to be much of a middle-ground -- people either love it or hate it. As usual in these cases, I deviate from the norm, as I have mixed feelings about the media phenomenon. I have not read any of the books, but I've seen the first three movies, and I can definitely see how the story would appeal to a certain demographic. The idea of a girl being pursued by two powerful boys mixed with a supernatural angle seems like an obvious sell. However, I can say that the movies are very poorly-acted and outside of some werewolf battle sequences, not very impressive. Given those black-or-white feelings which many have about Twilight, I can see them pre-judging anything from author Stephanie Meyer. But the movie The Host, based on her novel, is decidedly different from Twilight and deserves a chance to prove itself.

The Host takes place on an Earth which has been conquered by an alien race. The aliens are small, wormlike parasites which attach themselves to humans and take over their bodies. The aliens came to Earth to save us from ourselves, as we were destroying the planet and one another. The majority of the population has been assimilated and peace and harmony rule. However, there are small pockets of resistance, and as the film opens, one such fighter, Melanie (Saoirse Ronan), is captured and taken before The Seeker (Diane Kruger), a sort-of alien police officer. Melanie is implanted with an alien which calls itself Wanderer. However, Melanie's mind is still very much alive in her body. We learn that she had been traveling with her brother, Jamie (Chandler Canterbury), and a young man named Jared (Max Irons), with whom she'd just started a relationship. Wanderer is curious and kind, and Melanie convinces the alien that they must find her companions. So, they, again, both in Melanie's body, strike out for the American southwest, with The Seeker not far behind. Even if Melanie can find Jamie and Jared, will they trust her now that she has the glowing blue eyes of one who has been taken over?

With The Host, Meyer tried something somewhat different from Twilight. That series was set in the dark, wet Pacific northwest, while much of The Host takes place in the desert. Twilight focused on the classic monsters with vampires and werewolves, while The Host takes a decidedly sci-fi root with aliens and mind-control. However, some things are similar. As with Twilight, we get a love triangle here, which becomes a love square. Melanie is in love with Jared, but when she meets Ian (Jake Abel), he finds himself attracted to Wanderer. The idea of two minds inhabiting one body who are in love with two different people is an admittedly interesting one and something I don't remember seeing lately. (Did that happen in All of Me?) I also liked the fact that these weren't the stereotypical "hive mind" aliens and each one can think on its own.

Despite these new angles for Meyer, The Host is not hardcore science fiction, and I'm not a hardcore science-fiction fan. But, I can tell you that from the outset, the story here is full of plot-holes and they grow as the film progresses to the point that if you think about it, very little of it makes sense. A incision at the base of the neck is required for the aliens to take over their hosts and the infected do this to new victims. This has to be done by someone in a human body, as the aliens are small amorphous blobs which can't hold a scalpel. So, how did the first possession occur? Who made that slit? The movie doesn't tell us. Also, the movie implies that the aliens saw fit to take us over because we were destroying our environment. But, this doesn't stop them from driving cars and motorcycles with combustion engines. These are just two of the head-scratchers put forth by the movie.

The Host was written for the screen and directed by Andrew Niccol, the writer of The Truman Show and the writer/director of Gattaca, and frankly, I expect better of him. A movie about an alien invasion in which the aliens take over bodies sounds like the kind of paranoia piece which would be right up his alley. But, we donít get anything like that here, as Niccol sticks with what I assume to be the tone of the novel, making this a story of one girlís journey to get home, which then turns into a weird love story. There is never any real tension or suspense here, as things often work out quite well for Melanie/Wanderer. Again, the love story angle is interesting, but thereís no real sense of passion here, so itís not engaging. The voice-over dialogue between Wanderer and Melanie probably felt very organic in the book, but it grows tedious very quickly here. At 125-minutes, the movie is far too long and much of the second half feels repetitive. And the film completely wanders into ďCutesyvilleĒ when Wandererís name is shortened to Wanda.

When a person has success with one studio or group, others want to work with them. If there a word for what happen when another studio finally gets their chance and doesnít seem the same results? As The Host remained on the best-seller list for 26 weeks, one would assume that the book is popular, but the movie flopped from the get-go. This is somewhat odd, as the movie should appeal to youngsters (mainly girls) who like the idea of aliens, but donít want anything violent or icky. Outside of that demo, most will find the film derivative (The Hidden was much better) and boring. Chick-lit sci-fi isnít necessarily a bad idea, but someone needs to tackle it with more inspiration than what I saw here.

The Host is all about shiny cars on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 34 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source material. Given that many shots take place in the bright desert, the lack of grain is impressive. The colors look very good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The crispness of the image makes it look as if we could step into it. The level of detail is very good and the depth is impressive. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are very good, as they are detailed and show good separation. The film has many opportunities for good surround sound effects and it takes advantage of this. The noises in the caves and the pursuing helicopter offer detailed surround effects. A car chase allows the subwoofer to get involved.

The Host Blu-ray Disc contains only a few extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY featuring Author/Producer Stephanie Meyer, Writer/Director Andrew Niccol, and Producer Nick Wechsler. "Bringing The Host to Life" (8 minutes) is a brief featurette which plays more like an EPK. The piece is driven by comments from Meyer, and we also hear from Ronan, Abel, Irons, and Kruger. The piece also offers a quick look at the production design. The Disc contains four DELETED SCENES which run about 3 minutes. These are all brief and don't have any new characters or ideas.

Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.