The Host- A Movie Review By Erich Dewald

Cliché phrases are fun. Okay, imagine if you will—an invasion of the body snatchers! Body snatchers are alien invaders from outer space and they snatch bodies. Alright, now we’re all together on the body snatching thing. Next, take it a step further and consider the technical details of this process. Who gets to control the brain via snatched body?

“The Host” challenges closely-held conceptions about the science of bodysnatching. Shockingly, the movie asserts a provocative new idea: what if, the brain of the body-snatched could be shared by the original being?

Impossible right? There is, of course, a historic and robust canon of authoritative literature on the topic—foundations laid by the most celebrated thinkers of the Classical period, the Renaissance, and the Enlightenment.  This movie calls into question trusted theories about body-snatching as passed down through the centuries from Aristotle, Newton, and Stephen Hawking, but one will observe that it has always required a radical stretching of the intellect to arrive at new truths.

Science!

Various people I respect have both mocked and adored the “Twilight” books and movies. I should say that before this movie I’d neither read nor watched anything that Stephanie Meyer created.

What drew me to watch was that when I looked up the director, as I usually do before I see a movie, I found that Andrew Niccol had previously directed “Gattaca” (1997) which was a solid movie visually, and he wrote the screenplay for “The Truman Show” (1998) and that was a very good story. So I was optimistic for “The Host.”

It must be reasoned that Meyer, being a mega-bestselling novelist can create an engaging plot and it is true for this filmed adaptation. To start with a world occupied by body-snatching aliens sets a good premise; and having very few remaining humans generates some motion for a story, but to suppose that a body-snatcher snatching a body finds that the body is not entirely snatched…well, again, that’s just effing with the equation. Having two minds controlling one body in a sci-fi movie becomes an intriguing psychological study.

There are, as I had guessed, some really corny things going on. When the main character(s?), Melanie and her alien occupier both try to contend with romantic love, the drama and dialogue elicit regular face-palms.

The more profound conflicts involve difficulties such as earning the trust of others when dealing with multiple personalities. As I was watching, I got a feeling that the social skills that are challenging work for any of us are amplified among those who suffer from clinical schizophrenia.

Lately, one thing that’s become a kind of neuroses with me is the use of special effects in movies. Thankfully, in “The Host” CGI effects are incorporated in moderation rather than slavishly like what has become conventional for today’s sci-fi/fantasy flicks. When dealing with astounding themes like alien takeovers, subtle use of special effects become more credible. I didn’t feel one bit like calling b.s. when alien intruders were removed from human cadavers. Used sparingly, phenomena just become more amazing.

It is all set in a world that, like in “Gattaca,” carefully uses picturesque natural landscapes in addition to many minimalist structures, buildings, interior sets, and costuming to create an impression of the future. One that will probably elude the usual problem of a sci-fi movie becoming “dated.” All the best ones share this timelessness, such as David Lynch’s “Eraserhead” (1977), Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange” (1971) and Andrey Tarkovskiy’s “Solaris” (1972). Sharing these characteristics, “The Host” earns a degree of respectability.

Speaking of respectability, it’s time to toss those sorry old beliefs—this is the new science of bodysnatching!

 

Photo courtesy of Open Road Films

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