‘The Host’ Review

Published 2 years ago by , Updated November 15th, 2014 at 12:52 am,

The Host Saoirse Ronan Wanda The Host Review

The central Soul setup, along with solid cinematography and competent performances, should be enough to kick-off a full Host film trilogy – and maybe even win over a few Stephenie Meyer skeptics.

After the mega-success of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga, it didn’t take long for Hollywood to green light an adaptation of the writer’s other supernatural romance story, The Host. Instead of vampires and werewolves, The Host follows body-snatching extraterrestrial, Wanderer, in a sci-fi tale set in the aftermath of an alien occupation on Earth. The actual invasion event itself is never shown but it’s implied that the aliens, “The Souls,” first came to our planet in the interest of creating peace and harmony – as humans had been warring and destroying the Earth for millennia. To survive, a Soul is inserted into a human body, suppressing the original occupant’s consciousness, and changing their eye color.

However, in certain instances, a human will be strong enough to resist suppression – allowing that person to act as a voice inside a Soul-occupied head and, in extreme situations, momentarily regain control of their body. Which is the case when Soul Wanderer is inserted into the body of tough-as-nails human rebel Melanie Stryder (Saoirse Ronan). During a search of Melanie’s memories, punctuated by commentary from the disembodied human voice, Wanderer experiences conflicted emotions about the Soul occupation and (with a little push from Melanie) sets out on a journey of discovery – a journey that threatens Soul control on Earth.

The Host 2013 Souls The Host Review

Souls landing on Earth in ‘The Host’

The trailers for The Host feature a high-speed chase, gun fights, and quick action cuts, but it’s important to note that the film, along with the book, is romance first, sci-fi storyline second. As a result, anyone who decried Twilight for its glittering vampires will not likely experience a significant change of heart when faced with grey-eyed aliens since the romantic subplots are on-the-nose and there’s plenty of eye rolling dialogue (lines that might work on a book page but not when spoken out loud in a film scene).

The Host keeps a narrow focal point, only hinting at overarching Soul mythology, their invasion, and the human resistance, in an effort to explore the Wanderer character story – as well as her complicated relationship with host Melanie Stryder. This focus will not be satisfying for moviegoers expecting a fully-realized science fiction world (especially one with a lot of action) but that doesn’t mean The Host fails to deliver a worthwhile experience for its target audience.

Certain filmgoers will balk at the sight of Meyer’s name but The Host is an adequate (albeit significantly flawed) character story with solid cinematography and a competent lead performance from Saoirse Ronan. The (few) action beats are clunky and underwhelming but writer/director Andrew Niccol (In Time, Gattaca) mostly captures the emotional journey of Wanderer with a few charming moments and a sense of wonder that makes some of Meyer’s more outrageous novel ideas plausible as they transfer to film.

The Host Saoirse Ronan Wanda Jake Abel The Host Review

Saoirse Ronan (Wanderer) and Jake Abel (Ian)

Viewers don’t get to see much of post-invasion Earth but Niccol offers some intriguing juxtapositions between Soul and human life without taking too many detours from the core character story – and for good reason. Where the central narrative is relatively focused, nearly every supporting character arc is thin and underdeveloped, leaving side players with nothing but one-note roles to flesh out.

The most unfortunate example is Diane Kruger’s Seeker character – who spends most of the film aimlessly searching for Wanderer and the human rebels. However, The Host only makes passing attempts to dig into the character’s motivations – resulting in mismanaged opportunities that actually muddle, instead of strengthen, thematic potential in the Seeker along with the larger Soul versus human conflict.

Similarly, the roster of human rebels (which includes performances from William Hurt, Max Irons, and Frances Fisher, among others) is full of familiar personalities that are mostly exposition machines – designed to educate viewers about Meyer’s version of post-apocalytpic Earth or communicate specific perspectives on a variety of heavy-handed themes (racism, moral ambiguity, etc). Aside from Wanderer’s arc, nearly all of the central ideas about love, friendship, sisterhood, and violence, are told to the audience in dialogue, not developed over time on screen.

The Host Max Irons William Hurt The Host Review

Max Irons (Jared) and William Hurt (Jeb)

Still, an especially awkward element of The Host is the external/internal conversations between Wanderer and Melanie – a clear example of why novel-to-film adaptation can be tricky. As mentioned, what works on a book page can be awkward on the big screen and while it’s necessary to the setup of the film, much of the internal Melanie dialogue is distracting, undercutting what is otherwise a solid portrayal from Ronan. The disembodied Melanie enjoys a couple worthwhile moments, making the best of a complicated story component, but for viewers who haven’t read the book, the internal dialogue scenes will be jarring at times (if not outright laughable during others).

Despite its shortcomings, The Host is a passable film that should be able to entertain a segment of viewers that were turned-off by the melodramatic Twilight series (while fully catering to Twi-Hard faithfuls). Even with a body-snatching sci-fi premise, The Host is a much more grounded film experience, prioritizing its central character story over the more sensational plot beats. Romantic relationships as well as supporting characters are thinly-drawn and anyone hoping for an multifaceted science fiction world will walk away disappointed. Yet, the central Soul setup, along with solid cinematography and competent performances, should be enough to kick-off a full Host film trilogy – and maybe even win over a few Stephenie Meyer skeptics.

If you’re still on the fence about The Host, check out the trailer below:


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The Host runs 125 minutes and is Rated PG-13 for some sensuality and violence. Now playing in 2D and 3D theaters.

Let us know what you thought of the film in the comment section below.

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for future reviews, as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.

Our Rating:

2 out of 5

Follow Ben Kendrick on Twitter @benkendrick
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  1. Stephenie, you can type this s**t, but you sure as hell can’t say it. Also, your parents spelled you name wrong.

  2. *your! Darn it!

  3. That review seemed pretty positive until I saw the two out of five stars. ??

    • A 2/5 of isn’t a terrible review score. As stated in the review, it actually does do a number of things right that could make it worthwhile for fans of the genre. But, I call is passable, underwhelming, campy with bad dialogue, among other things – so it’s hardly a glowing recommendation.

      • It just read as positive. Generally, you don’t give too many two stars on SR. “G.I. Joe 2″ got two, but that review really did read as being bad.

        • Fair enough. I can understand that. It’s hard to compare this one with some of our other reviews, I think because it’s an okay film – but only for a very specific sliver of filmgoers. In general, I’d say if you are interested in the story (and not totally adverse to Meyer), it’s par for the course, given the melodrama and romance-focused plot of the book, but will NOT likely win-over too many viewers who weren’t really sold on the idea before release.

      • Agreed, The Host certainly did not overwhelm in any manner. As most often is the case, the book was much better than the movie. Although Melanie and Jared were true to their book characters in regards to their love affair the directors failed to portray why they fought so hard for their existence, and how Wanda came to understand why the invasion was wrong. Given a background of the history of prior planet invasions would have led to a better understanding of why the Earthly invasion could never be possible. Also there were several different adaptations of key factors in the book; how souls are removed, how Wanda’s body was found, and What happened to finding Kyle’s girlfriend? How important that was when she could not return to her body and he fell for a Soul. All in all it was true to the story line, buy did not compel me to want to see it again or get that “I can’t wait to buy the CD” feeling. Not good nor bad.

  4. The major problem with the Twilight movies was the acting, couldn’t we have gotten more about the actors performances as well? The only reason I’d see this is Saoirse Ronan but if even she was average in this then I may pass.

    • The acting?….id say the whole premise and story.

      • Just cause the story isn’t for you doesn’t mean it was the problem. I also disliked the story but it fits its demographic. The problem was the script the direction and acting

        • That’s the problem, it’s the entire demographic doesn’t have a clue what makes a good movie.

          • That comment just summed up my feelings on my generations view of movies. I try to explain what makes a good movie, but all they want is explosions.

            • You need to understand that this movie is not for tweens and was not written for Tweens it was also getting a bad rap because it is related to twilight

          • And you do? Can you act? Can you write a script?

            • You don’t need to know how to act or how to write a script in order to know what makes a good movie.

              You may know what attributes make for a good quarterback in football so does that mean you possess the talent to be one as well? Does that mean you’re not allowed to criticize any quarterback if you don’t possess anything close to the same amount of skill? Appears so according to your logic.

              • I think you missed the point jacka**

                • I think hes right on point. You dont have to be a writer to know good dialogue.
                  Dont have to know acting to be able to tell bad acting.

          • Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man. Citizen Kane is considered a good movie by tons of people but I find it extremely boring and uninteresting.

            • @The Dude Be careful, people on this sight can’t handle opinions.

            • Screw you dude
              I lost my virginity to that great movie
              All hail Citizen Kane , greatest movie ever made !!!!

              • Citizen Kane…..PFFT! I swear some of you people just go off saying you like movies like Citizen Kane just to make your self look “old school” or “i like Citizen Kane because i’m so smart and not like other fools these days myeeeah shhheeeeee”. FAck Citizen Kane!

          • you mean the lovers of ripped shirtless dudes and thin androgynous guys .demo

        • and its abuse of vampire/werewolf lore.

  5. I should’ve seen this coming after the dreadful ‘In Time’, a movie that tried to marry a usual Niccol idea with Justin Timberlake’s audience. Where the guy who wrote and directed the cerebral, calm yet utterly clinical in its emotion ‘Gattaca’ has gone I doubt anyone will find out.

    He parodied this movie’s demographic in ‘S1m0ne’. Now his career is to make a living from it. If this movie was even the tiniest bit ironic, I’d get it. But it isn’t.

    Away to hug my cherished copy of ‘Gattaca’ now.

  6. This won’t make a trilogy. SM was very very lucky with twilight, it was all down to Catherine Hardwick, score and scenery. The first twilight was a sweet film. However when they started getting in the big guns and it will be the same with this one, the books don’t have the depth/balls to be epic enough. And there are ton of books like SMs I know cause I read them all, SM was really lucky that Catherine picked hers.

  7. Ben, How dare you call this piece of sh*t passable. It’s Not! It’s THE worst film of 2013!

    • You must not have seen Texas Chainsaw 3D ;) As mentioned in the review, it’s passable – that’s hardly a glowing recommendation. Still, it’s target audience should find it enjoyable enough.

      • True. TEXAS CHAINSAW has Alex Daddario, though.

    • It’s very passable. It’s a sweet sci-fi movie about family and loyalty to each other, country and planet/resources. The acting was good. Saorise Ronan is always amazing. The cinematography was good.The adaptation is what stunk. And I don’t agree, “Beautiful Creatures” was the worst movie this year. Over-acted and under-written. Just MY opinion.

      • I sense that people who says this is “the worst” movie of 2013 are just going along with the recent reviews (ironically) and it being an easy target to spew on. Then again, those types of people never liked the project in the first place so they already had a preconceived notion that was, more or less, set in stone before they even bought a ticket.

  8. The first picture features Ian not Kyle if you read the book you would know that Kyle hated Wanda with a passion

    • It was a simple typo. It’s been corrected. Thanks for pointing it out.

  9. Instead of spending your money and time to see this crap, go look for the 1978 Invasion of the Body Snatchers starring Donald Sutherland and Jeff Goldblum (among others) A MUCH better movie even though it’s 35 years old.

    • The ending of that still freaks me out.

      *points, opens mouth, screams…..everyone points and screams*

  10. I was on the fence, ’cause the lead actor (Ronan) is somewhat charming, but I’ll pass. I’ll spend the money on something else.

  11. Figures. Looks like if I’m going to see a film this weekend, it will probably be Olympus….again. At least that film kept me awake.

  12. She’s done vampires and werewolves, now she’s done aliens. I’m guessing it’ll be ghosts next.

    Anyway, it’s a shame now that when I mention The Host, most people will think of this crap instead of the great satirical monster movie from South Korea.

    Anyone remember when Stephen King said that Meyer was a disgrace to writing? Films being made based on her work is why I shake my head at Hollywood when they decide against great movies having sequels but choose to make more crap like this.

    I guess fans of this stuff will love it but as a movie lover, it makes me worry when millions are spent on creating and marketing this kind of thing but great ideas are passed on due to studio execs worried about losing money without giving them a chance (I’m looking at you Deadpool movie and sequels to Dredd).

    Sorry but I had to rant a little. Needless to say, I’ve survived without watching a single Twilight movie and I’ll live without watching this too.

  13. What was Niccol thinking doing this movie? I tried to read the book, but it quickly became apparent that it was garbage fiction disguised as “science fiction” and I quickly handed it back to my wife. But she wanted to see the movie, so I indulged her.

    This is possible the worst movie I’ve seen in quite some time, and I adore Gattaca.

    It should be noted that Tyler Perry’s new movie made double what The Host made, and it opened in 1200 theaters less than The Host. Wow. You know you’ve hit rock bottom when a Tyler Perry movie makes 100% more in 33% fewer theaters.

    • You posted the same comment on IMDb. Let’s be honest, you’re just pissed because it has Meyer’s name on it.

  14. i think the host is a starter for those who is not into sci-fi-s. knowing that the sci-fi content of the movie and the book is not really that high. but those who love romance will definitely start reading and watching aliens because of this book :)

  15. The book was really amazing, and it saddens me that Andrew changed some of the details. The book was already perfect. Why change it?

  16. Hi Ben. Nice review. I saw it and I liked it (gave it a 4/5). I’m glad that you didn’t resort to the usual Meyer/Twilight bashing that many, if not most, online reviews resorted to. This is why I like screenrant: movies are reviewed with honesty and the writing is much better also.

  17. “Interesting” review. It’s overall a positive review of the movie and one gets the feeling you really liked it but are reticent to admit it outright! It’s okay to admit it-we all have our guilty pleasures :) Enjoyable review, thanks.

  18. I found the film to be a disappointment. The directors have not stayed true to the book & this is where the films weakness is. White instead of black, healer Sky View instead of Healer Nits, The car crash, Picacho Peak. There are other areas of the film that are not true to the book & I was disappointed.

  19. I thought the host was fantastic the love between Jared and Melanie was just so good and then the action scenes and Max Irons is so hot and there dancing scene in the rain is thought it was outstanding loved it 100% 5stars from me

  20. All in all I think this movie was great! Made you really get into it, sends a message of love and passion. I never read the book but the movie 4/5

  21. I’m gonna go on a hunch, but if copy cat Stephanie Meyer makes a third film, I bet eyes will be dramatically colored in that movie too.

  22. Wonderful beat ! I wish to apprentice while you amend
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  23. I think it’s a kick as movie and if u sit back a smoke a fatty before u watch it!!! U can under stand there is hardly any love in this world!!! I’m no example either I get just as mad, and hateful as the other guy but I’m am fighting that anger and trying to fill it with love because that’s what will save this world when we exhaust it!!

  24. In know this is late, but…

    I love this movie.

  25. I watched the Bluray this weekend. Worst movie of 2013 of the all the ones I watched. Just terrible, cliched crap.