“The Host”
If you’re Stephenie Meyer, and you’ve just become the Great American Novelist before age 40 (for the “Twilight” series), not to mention a multi-millionaire for the movie rights alone, what do you do for an encore? Adult sci/fi, anyone? And yes, now they’re releasing that as a movie, as well.
If we’re not exactly targeting the teen romance audience here, at the very least, we’re appealing to those same teenage (girls, mostly) as they become young adults. Once again, the central character is female. Once again, she has a series of bewildering experiences in which she encounters supernatural forces. Once again, she has to depend on her own wit, wiles, and intuition. And once again, there is a love triangle. And once again, her character must change and adapt quickly, and even give up something of her old self in order to become her new, transformed self. But, with all those specific Meyer factors in common, this story is in a very different context.
It seems that Planet Earth is now peaceful, benign, non-violent, clean, and orderly. Because we’ve been invaded by alien beings who’ve taken over our bodies with their transmittable/transportable souls. Everyone is calm because there are no more human emotions. There are a few “real” humans left, but they’re in hiding. You can tell who they are because their eyes don’t have that weird blue glow to them. Oh, and they act human, too, instead of like kindler, gentler robots with human appearance.
Melanie Stryder (Saorirse Ronan) is so desperate to escape the clutches of the aliens that she literally throws herself through a third-story window. But the aliens find her still barely alive enough to restore her health (through their superior technology) and also implant their submissive “soul” in her cerebral cortex. But when Melanie wakes up, it appears that the old Melanie is still inside her head, though her “handlers” are calling her by her new soul’s name, “Wanderer.” The voice of the old Melanie is heard by the viewer as a voice-over, and this also provides some opportunity for some light humor, as she, in her modern American casual slang, contradicts the oppressive controlling formality of The Host, both within and around her.
Do you remember those old cartoons where you have the devil on one shoulder saying one thing and the angel on the other shoulder saying another? It’s that kind of dialogue tension. (Or, if you prefer, the internal conflict within Jedi-in-training between The Force and The Dark Side.) Melanie/Wanderer manages to escape, ambivalently, and finds herself adopted/captured by a small renegade cell of independent humans, led by a self-proclaimed benign dictator (William Hurt), who dubs her “Wandy” and senses the struggle within her. “Wandy” now manages to kiss both her old boyfriend (which angers the jealous internal Melanie), but also a new boyfriend (which also angers the internal Melanie, but for different reasons). This developing sense of romance, along with the affection for her human “family,” has begun to transform her inner being into something compatible with both the aliens and the humans, but of course that creates its own tension, because up to now they’ve been intent on destroying and eliminating each other.
Will our wandering damsel in distress ever even find out who she is, much less decide which one to love? And will she somehow be able to bridge the two worlds in which she finds herself? And will the Earth as we knew it ever be the same?
Oh yes, there will be sequels. Just don’t think too much about the cosmological contradictions and logical insolvencies, and go with the “sacrifice of self for the good of others” theme. Especially with a release date of Good Friday, that sounds vaguely theological to me.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Irving , Texas