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FROM PAGE TO SCREEN: THE HOST (2012) - PART II
 



 


(The Host author Stephanie Meyer)

It turns out that those humans who knew about the sneaky alien invasion beforehand are however more resistant to their new alien overlords and Wanderer has a tough time taking complete control of Melanie whose mind is still active somewhere in the recesses of Wanderer’s consciousness. Later on Melanie’s feelings, emotions and memories become intertwined with those of Wanderer’s, which is why Wanderer finally goes off into the desert to find Melanie’s younger brother and boyfriend, Jared.

In the desert Wanderer/Melanie is captured by a group of human resistance fighters who hide in some intricate underground caves. Jared is amongst the humans and so is her kid brother.

Many of the novel’s 617 pages are taken up with Wanderer/Melanie’s efforts to convince the suspicious humans that she isn’t a threat to them because she still loves her old boyfriend and brother. Wanderer has gone native as they say - but how to convince the natives of this? Things become complicated when a protective human named Ian falls in love with Wanderer, which means that we have a convoluted “love triangle” in which two men loves two separate entities inhabiting the same female body . . .

Reading The Host I kept on thinking how difficult it will be to make a movie out of it. For starters, much of the “action” (there isn’t really a lot of it to be honest) is internal and consists of Wanderer and Melanie struggling it out for supremacy in Melanie’s body. How to depict all their internal dialogue? I don’t know. The easy way out would be to present Melanie’s presence as someone which only Wanderer can “see” –a device which they use on TV shows a lot. But it is such a creative copout that one really hopes that the film-makers never go that route and come up with something more visually interesting.

The other problem is that about 75% of the action takes place in underground caves, which will give the movie a claustrophobic feel. Any screenwriter or director will have to their best to free up the action to outside locations; otherwise audiences will feel as if they are watching a filmed stage play.

"The book's alien heroine is so gosh darned altruistic, self-sacrificing and nice that you want to throw up!"

If anyone can do this, it is the talented Andrew Niccol who not only directed two bona fide intelligent science fiction classics (namely Gattaca and The Truman Show), but also showed a flair for interesting visuals and storytelling techniques in Lord of War, the 2005 Nicolas Cage movie about illegal weapons smuggling. Here one can flashback to CG scenes of previous alien worlds where Wanderer lived for instance – just the sort of stuff to put into the movie trailer as well.

The biggest problem though is that while The Host is better than I expected, it still has some major flaws. Its biggest problem is its “ain’t people just so gosh darned nice?” aesthetic. Even the aliens themselves are so loveable that one wonders how they managed to have conquered so many planets in the first place!

In Meyer’s universe people are all inherently good. “Bad” people are just misguided and will soon overcome their prejudices and accept our heroine, Wanderer / Melanie for what she is instead of the group (genocidal alien invaders) she belongs to. Wanderer / Melanie herself (itself?) is so darned altruistic, self-sacrificing and nice that you’ll want to throw up. The Host comes across at times like the end product of what would happen when The Simpsons’ goody two shoes neighbor Ned Flanders decided to try his hand at writing science fiction!

The book’s last hundred or so pages is particularly hard to stomach. One keeps on reading because one wants to see how the author will satisfactorily resolve the impossible dilemma for her heroine – she is after all a traitor to her own species and do not really belong with the humans. Wanderer/Melanie is a metaphor for any persecuted minority group (blacks, homosexuals, anime figurine collectors, etc.) who wants to be accepted by the “mainstream”. (For more such metaphors, check out the HBO series True Blood.) By her own “Liberal” politics she has no reason to inhabit Melanie’s body, but in Meyer’s fictional world people will easily overcome their own prejudices and judge someone on their individual merits.

As you might have guessed by now, The Host isn’t exactly V or any other action-filled alien invasion tale. The human resistance aren’t machinegun toting mavericks who blast away everything in their path even though there probably will be times when you wish that they were. Instead it is an intelligent and somewhat talky love story that descends into mawkishness particularly towards the end.

One can only hope that director Niccol will focus on the book’s strengths and lay off on the noble self-sacrifice a bit. In such an event, The Host might just turn out to be one of the more interesting science fiction movies to come our way in quite a while . . .


 



 

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