Mania Review: The Host -

Mania Review

Mania Grade: D

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  • Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Diane Kruger, William Hurt, Frances Fisher, Max Irons and Jake Abel
  • Written by: Andrew Niccol
  • Directed by: Andrew Niccol
  • Studio: Open Road
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Run Time: 125 minutes
  • Series:

Mania Review: The Host

Stephenie Meyer must be stopped.

By Rob Vaux     March 29, 2013

 Stephenie Meyer is worse than a bad writer. She’s an anti-writer. At least bad writing features things like conflict and rising action: hackneyed, silly or poorly rendered perhaps, but by God things happen in bad writing. Meyer’s writing, on the other hand, is specifically designed to remove all of that. In my mind’s eye, I imagine her strapping good concepts down to a mad scientist’s table, and draining them of their dramatic potential as they shriek in agony. What if she gets a hold of the classics?! Can you fathom Lady Macbeth mooning about who loves her the most for five unbearable acts, or a blank-faced Heathcliff mumbling Hallmark platitudes to Catherine for hour after agonizing hour? That’s anti-writing: a black hole pulling everything beautiful and decent about the creative process into its ravenous maw.

The Host is the latest adaptation of her abominable work, a movie so dull and wrong-headed that you can actually see the good idea at its core dying in front of us. It starts with an Invasion of the Body Snatchers scenario in which alien parasites how possessed almost every human on Earth. The twist? Things actually get a lot better. War ends, violence and injustice vanish, and the Earth has a chance to heal. What a marvelous notion: a chance to debate serious moral ideas within a tried-and-true framework while-

Oh yeah, the anti-writing. Please shelve the philosophical musings in favor of another shitty Meyer love triangle, populated by one-note characters and the kind of moral subtext that usually precedes cult suicides. A still-free human girl named Melanie (Saoirse Ronan) gets captured and implanted with an alien “Soul” called the Wanderer. Now trapped in her own body, Melanie somehow convinces the creature to turn against its fellows and help her find her family, now deeply involved in the human resistance. (Said resistance apparently involves growing grain in caves and raiding generic supermarkets in the middle of the night. Anything else would involve actual conflict, and we can’t have that.)

In any case, the group also contains a pair of interchangeable bo-hunks (Max Irons and Jake Abel): one of whom is already in love with Melanie and one of whom falls in love with the Wanderer. We can’t really tell why, since neither half of the girl demonstrates any interesting traits and the boys literally have no definable personality of their own. This isn’t love, it’s a trio of living props aping the movements of love. Considering that Ronan remains one of the brightest young actresses on the scene today, her onscreen drowning here speaks to the unspeakable power of anti-writing.

Meyer’s trademark terror of sexuality remains in full force as well, with schizophrenic gestures of violence and contempt slapped onto physical contact as a way of creating “troubled relationships.” Most of the spooning scenes end with somebody getting physically struck and/or Mel’s disembodied voice shrieking “Ick! Boys!” every time the Wanderer locks lips with one of her flavorless leading men. As with the Twilight films, The Host actively encourages its young female audience to fear their bodies. It would be funny if we didn’t see so many girls cheerfully buying into it.

Naturally, we’re expected to embrace the soppy musings of the three central nitwits, even as they stagger through a mess of half-assed non-events that we’ll generously call a story. Intriguing questions arise – how the aliens conquered us, why they insist on emulating our culture, how they balance their vaunted decency with the need to snuff out human identity – only to be routinely ignored in favor of Ronan (literally) arguing with herself.  Writer-director Andrew Niccol slips into the same trap as his leading lady, hamstrung by the material and helpless to uncover anything worth watching within it. Few science fiction worlds are as poorly developed – or boring – as this one, with no thought given to the countless questions of logic or plausibility that spring up like Roman legions. We get just a few shiny cars and some hand waving about interstellar travel: handsomely presented, but as barren as the desert landscape they constantly patrol. Science fiction, teen romance, meditation on humanity…  pick your poison and The Host fails. Spectacularly. Epically. In ways that make you question the sanity of everyone involved.

Perhaps its most troubling aspect is the way its heroine acts as a soulless cypher on which the audience can imprint their own qualities. We’ve apparently become so disconnected from our fellow human beings that we can only identify with a character who matches us in every possible way. That narcissism runs through Meyer’s work like a bad rash, an explanation for both its ongoing popularity and utter moral repugnance. The Host turns a good filmmaker into an inept coward and a strong actor into a stammering mannequin, indisputable evidence that anti-writing destroys everything that it touches. We can only wait with trembling fear to see what horrors the author will inflict on us next. 


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goldeneyez 3/29/2013 5:58:42 AM

Hey Rob, why don't you tell us how you really feel.

cinemaman72 3/29/2013 6:04:56 AM

Rob although your review is littered with gramatical mistakes, I agree with the review. Spot on!

DarthBob 3/29/2013 7:00:39 AM

Dude, at least spell grammatical correctly if you're gonna call someone out for writing errors.  That's a good one.

wish 3/29/2013 7:37:15 AM

Ha ha!!   The eternal problem with a world where people speak in written text on public forums!  The reason I stay away from facebook is because I don't really need to see that 90% of everyone I know can't spell or write sentences to save their lives!!!  Most of them have clearly never read a book or written anything worth reading!  It's sad, it's a little scary but it doesn't appear to be getting better.........and in a universe that never stays stationary, that means it's just going to get worse and worse.  Now that wouldn't be such an obvious problem if it weren't for the other great problem.......lack of editing or proofreading!!!  Rob's reviews, like pretty much every article on this site are full of mistakes that I always catch on my first read through!  It's just a lack of proper proofreading, but I do get what he's trying to say about Meyers as a writer, and I think he's right.......unfortunately she's already made too much money to be stopped so we can just do our best to avoid giving her more money/power and look forward to the inevitable day when her work will no longer be desired in the movie world.......or anywhere hopefully.....

This movie looked and sounded like shit from the beginning of it's inception despite the very attractive and talented Saoirse Ronan, I had no plans to ever see it but reading the reviews has been highly entertaining so far!!  Errors aside I give this review an A!!

monkeyfoot 3/29/2013 7:52:30 AM

The basic idea of the book and movie has always sounded excellent to me. As stated, its sort of a post-Body Snatcher movie which is something I've always wondered about when watching any of the movie versions: what happens after the Snatchers win? It's an idea definitely worth exploring.

I've never read the book (or a Twilight novel) but it sounds like in the movie from Rob's description not much of anything happens. Or more accurately, stuff happens in the usual Stephenie Meyer's way which is alot of hand wringing and metaphorically eating a half gallon of ice cream as the main character moans over her lovers.

I won't see it in the theater but since I do love the premise I will make a point of seeing it when it runs on cable.

I wonder how this idea would have been done in the hands of a better author? Pick your favorite.

blankczech 3/29/2013 9:48:54 AM

 I agree that Meyer's books and movies are poorly written, nonetheless they have a large audience.

I think Mania reviewers and commenters hold her to a different / higher standard than other writers.

Critics are very forgiving of the writing in comics, novels, and movies that include lots of mindless action and gratuitous violence, but if an author pens something that sounds the slightest bit romantic the grading scale slides way up.

Male nerds who have no problems with little dolls or toys that remind them of their favorite superheroes / super villains and their vehicles or gadgets and are able to sit through dreadfully written movies like G.I. Joe or Captain America have a very real problem with anything that gets a little mushy / romantic.

Perhaps this is why the defintion of the word Nerd usually speaks of social ineptitude / impairment.

spiderhero 3/29/2013 12:05:14 PM

I have to take issue with this review. I think you are being too generous in regards to Meyer's writing talents. Seriously.

KungPow 3/29/2013 1:34:58 PM

I have never read Meyer's books, nor do I intend to, but she must be doing something right as she has sold over 100 million books (I had to look it up).  It's pretty evident that someone must want to read them and obviously there are a lot of people out there doing so.  When I read reviews like there where the critic just bashes the author right and left it just makes me wonder what inadequacies the critic has to hide in their own life by knocking someone elses success?  Since Meyer's is so bad please give us a list of your recent books that have been turned to movies Rob....<crickets>

doublec 3/29/2013 1:36:06 PM

 I find Stephanie Meyer so utterly inconsequential that I don't undertand the hate. She's just not worth the effort.
And, very seriously, you might wanna check out what the word "bohunk" means before you ever use it again. It doesn't mean what you think it means and could get Mania into trouble.

makabriel 3/29/2013 3:20:40 PM

See, there's a difference between Good writing, and Easy writing.

What Meyers writes, anyone can read.  It's basically the Reality Show version of writing.  Junk food.  And that's why it sells. It's not highbrow, it's not complex, it caters to a very large crowd.

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