Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Ghoul Versus Stephenie Meyer's The Host (Part 1)

"The first foray into the twisted world of Stephenie Meyer..."

Stephenie Meyer! Is there a more polarizing name in the world of fiction today? Love her or hate her, you can't deny she's changed the entire landscape of pop culture entertainment as we know it. Whether that's a good thing or a terrible thing is a completely different story, but we're not here to talk about that today.

What we are here to discuss is the Host, Meyer's first stab at the sci-fi genre. Published a few months before the final book of her Twilight saga, it was a fair success but never matched the popularity of her more well known works. Naturally Hollywood snapped up the rights to the book, as the first Twilight film had grossed nearly 400 million dollars and EVERYONE could see that Meyer was the next cinematic goldmine.

Production problems pushed the film's release all the way back to 2013, at which time Meyer Mania (TM) had long since died down so the film likely lost out on millions and millions of dollars it could have made had it come out a couple of years earlier. Hollywood never has quite mastered striking when the proverbial iron is hot, has it?

The Host really could have used this extra money as it bombed pretty bad in theaters, not even making up its budget of 40 million dollars back. So why did it bomb? Was it a victim of the Meyer Mania (TM) Backlash Effect? Or was it a horrible movie that could be summed up as “Twilight, But With Aliens!” Let's find out with A Ghoul Versus The Host!

The film opens with narration talking about how the Earth is at peace with no hunger or violence. The planet has been healed from all its environmental problems and everyone is kind and polite The only downside to this is that it came at the expense of aliens conquering nearly the entire human race, invading their bodies and taking over their minds. This is played over footage of people across the world with glowing eyes, as that's a sign your body is occupied by an alien.

The few humans who survived are on the run, such as the one we start off with running for her life from a bunch of super creepy polite aliens led by Diane Kruger who say they only want to help her. She beats up a couple before jumping out of a high window to her death, landing hard on the pavement.  The aliens surround her body, as we find out she isn't dead.  By my estimate, that was at least a ten story fall and she should be street pizza. I did some research because stuff like this really bugs me, and I found an ABC News story detailing a man who survived a 15-story fall so I GUESS this is possible.  They take her to a hospital that has some kind of weird energy grid thing outside where we see giant silver sunflower seeds arriving from outer space.

The doctor, called a Healer, examining her says she doesn't have a single broken bone or ruptured organ and cannot explain how this is possible. Really movie, are you kidding me with this? We're not even THREE MINUTES in and this is how it's going to be? We damn sure better find out the young woman has super powers, which is how she'll be able to save the world or whatever because otherwise this is pure bullshit.

Kruger says she survived because “she wants to live.” Ohhhh God, what have I gotten myself into? Sure, just because she wants to live she's able to become the freaking Hulk. Got it. Thanks for setting the tone of the movie this early, the HostThe healer sprays something into the woman's mouth that instantly heals all her cuts and bruises. They cut the back of her neck open, taking a CGI caterpillar looking creature out of one of the silver sunflower seeds and placing it inside the incision. The creature enters her body and awakens her, giving her the glowy eyes. The alien says her name is Wanderer.

Later in her room she examines her face in the mirror. Suddenly an inner voice starts yelling, telling Wanderer the body belongs to her. YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME. THAT'S how we're going to do this? A voice over?! Is it too late to change what movie I'm reviewing?  To make matters worse, if that's possible, the voice is all echoy so it is very jarring to the ears. It's bad enough the glowy eyes are super distracting to watch, but this is just torture. It's easily the worst storytelling device I've seen in forever. This is going to be one VERY long movie.

Kruger catches Wanderer up to speed. We learn when the aliens take over the world they don't change it, but rather experience it and perfect it. However there is still a pocket of humans alive resisting the colonization, which is where Wanderer comes in. Kruger wants her to access her host's memories so they can find the resistance.  This is all cut with the Echoy Voice talking trash to Wanderer, and I mean that. She sounds like a reject from some teen reality show with all her “hip” dialogue. Wanderer reveals her body is named Melanie Stryder, which kind of sounds like Stephenie Meyer mixed up a bit.

We get a flashback of the aliens coming to Melanie's house, her father killing himself rather than be taken while Melanie and her younger brother Jamie hide. Wanderer tells Kruger Melanie's been on the run with him ever since as we hear Melanie begging her not to say this. How did anyone think this was a good idea?! Since I won't stop bitching about this, how would I have done it you ask? Split screen Melanie into the picture as a figment that only Wanderer can see, but I guess that would have taken effort so here we are.

That night Wanderer has a dream of Melanie's memories, where she broke into a house and raided it for food. A man comes up behind her and is about to kill her when he realizes she's human. He kisses her and she rightfully headbutts him hard in retaliation. There's a fine way to introduce your male lead, as a date rapist.  Melanie runs away, but he's able to chase her down and introduce himself as Jared Howe. Melanie says someone is waiting for her, which makes his face fall but then when she says it's her kid brother he smiles again. Real subtle movie. I'm sure there's NO WAY these two will end up as a couple! Also, thank God the only human she finds in two years just happened to be Teen Dream here! Meyer truly pushes the boundaries of fiction.

Wanderer wakes up, moved by the kiss as Melanie taunts her about it. At this point I want to stab myself in the head with an icepick and we're not even twelve minutes into this thing! I stopped the review to look up who made this, and found out it was Andrew Niccol which shocked the hell out of me.  He is a writer/director who made (in my book, at least) one of the greatest science fiction movies of all time, the epic Gattaca. His trademark is the consequences of technology on society, and his films are usually very intelligent and thought provoking. Well, usually... I can't explain the existence of his film S1m0neI have no idea what happened here, other than Niccol must REALLY be declining as a filmmaker in his later years. Hold on, he made In Time too? So yeah, that's EXACTLY what's happening.

Sad. Where was I? Wanderer starts drawing a picture of Jared, but Melanie is able to briefly take control of the body and make the alien throw her pencil across the room. The next morning Wanderer shows Kruger the picture, telling her Melanie and Jamie moved in with him and lived in a trailer far away from the aliens. We get the “happy little home” montage as Melanie and Jared begin to fall in love, which deeply affects Wanderer.  Kruger, who never gets a name besides Seeker despite the fact every other seeker has a name so I'm going to keep calling her Kruger, warns Wanderer she'll need to be on her guard against her human body as they're not like any other race the aliens have conquered to date.

We get another flashback of the three human seeing seekers near their trailer, knowing they'll have to move on. They spend the night hiding in a hotel while Jared goes out to get supplies. The seekers enter the hotel, where Melanie attacks them to draw them away from Jamie. This ends with her jumping out the window, bringing us full circle to where the movie started. And angrily-ing up my blood again. What is she, Supergirl?

Wanderer has a brief memory of the desert, starting to draw it as Melanie begs her to destroy it because it'll lead the seekers to the humans. Wanderer agrees, tearing it up. Later that week Wanderer meets up with Kruger, who tells her they've have a sighting of Jared. This causes Wanderer to spaz out and attack her but Kruger takes her out with some knock out gas from the strange silver weapon the aliens carry.

Kruger and fellow Seeker Reed tell Wanderer they believe her host is too strong, and Kruger herself is going to be transferred into Melanie's body to get this show back on the road. The operation will be done tomorrow, in the meantime Wanderer will be locked in her room all by herself. They JUST got done saying how dangerous her host is, yet aren't going to try to restrain her or anything? There's polite and then there's stupid.  Melanie tells Wanderer she can't let this happen. Wanderer believes her Healer will help, but doesn't know how to reach him. Melanie tells her to jump out the window to escape, but Wanderer doesn't want to. Why not? You're freaking indestructible! Melanie ends up making the alien jump out the window, where she lands in a conveniently placed pool.

Melanie wants to jack a car and get going, but Wanderer has a better idea. She flags down a nearby car and asks the driver if she can borrow it, and he happily complies. Ha! Gotta give the movie that one, that was awesome.  They drive to Fort Worth where the Healer now resides, Melanie continuing to kill the movie with her snarky echoy commentary. God, could you imagine the editors that had to listen to this for weeks on end while cutting this film? I seriously doubt any are alive to tell the tale.  Kruger searches Wanderer's room, finding the torn up pieces of the desert picture in her pants pockets.

As Wanderer drives, she experiences more happy memories of Jared and Jamie. When they end she realizes she's driven out in the middle of nowhere, as Melanie was using those memories to distract her while she drove out to the desert location. Wanderer tries to fight back but ends up flipping their car multiple times and totaling it. She's okay though, of course. She wants to live!  Melanie has her walk east towards her uncle's cabin, as elsewhere Kruger is able to match the drawing to the location out in the desert thanks to her super powerful alien computer... or something. Future technology is futuristic.  Wanderer has passed out in the desert under the only tree in the entire area because it makes for a nice shot.

Melanie's Uncle Jeb, played by an EXTREMELY bored William Hurt, just happens to find her and gives her water. They do a thing where they have a brief conversation where Wanderer keeps her eyes closed so we can have a dramatic reveal when she finally opens them, but Jeb is just like “Meh. Whatever.”.  A group of armed men walk up, wanting to kill Wanderer but Jeb won't let them because she's “still his niece”. If anything he should be the first one wanting to kill her since she's violated his much loved Melanie, but any kind of logic or common sense went out the window with Melanie.

Melanie's Aunt Maggie walks up and slaps her, also wanting to kill her but again Jeb ain't havin' it. He blindfolds her and takes her back to their secret base, which is a series of underground caverns. Wanderer finds Jared there, happily running up to him but he punches her out. Maggie wants Wanderer taken to Doc's office “like the rest”, but Jamie appears and stops them.  Jared ends up carrying Wanderer to a makeshift cell as the scene changes to the seekers investigating the area where Wanderer crashed her car. Wanderer wakes up to find Jared sitting nearby. Melanie tells the alien she can't tell the truth about her mind still being alive because this is something humans don't know and they'll think she's lying to save herself.

Huh? What kind of sense does that make? Why not just tell them things only Melanie would know until they believe her? This is played off as such a big plot point, but it just doesn't stand up. Brothers Ian and Kyle come to kill Wanderer, but Jared stands in their way. So now he wants to save her when the previous scene he wanted to kill her? They attack Jared but Wanderer runs to his defense, Ian starting to choke her to death. Jeb arrives and stops everyone, saying the alien is under his protection and they are to leave her alone.

Jared and Ian talk about Wanderer, Jared saying he doesn't trust her but Ian brings up how she tried to save him, saying he's never seen an alien do that.  Jeb gives Wanderer a tour of the caverns, because let's show the alien our entire base of operations just in case she really is a spy.  There's this strange scene where he's walking far ahead of her talking about things as she listens, then suddenly appears right behind her. This is because of how the sound really travels in the caves, which you're sure is going to be used later on when the seekers inevitably invade the caves and Wanderer uses the sound trick to outwit them, but no. Never happens. Just a completely pointless scene to pad out the run time. There's a lot of that, a/k/a every single scene of Kruger glaring at the desert.

Speaking of that, Kruger has called in motorcycles and helicopters to search the area. There's about a million cutaway shots of her in the desert that I've spared for the reason I just mentioned. This is a LONG movie even without the ridiculous voice overs, and for the life of my I don't know why it had to be. A shorter movie means more times it can be shown in a theater, which means more money.  Jeb continues the tour, ending on the reveal they've managed to grown wheat fields underground thanks to a system of lining the walls with mirrors to reflect the sun's light. I'd ask how the crops are able to take root in the rock, but ha ha, even I know better than that.  Jeb then recaps the first forty minutes of the movie for us in case you fell asleep (which is understandable) or arrived late to the theater because of traffic, as he believes Melanie is still alive in Wanda.

The alien doesn't respond for some unknown reason. I guess they need to keep dragging out the “will Jared come to love her again or not” thing, I have no idea.  Hey, what is Jared up to anyway? He and Kyle are leading a convoy of trucks to go steal supplies for the resistance. Just like Kruger, they keep cutting back to this for no good reason except to make this seem like this is one of those things where “stuff” actually “is happening”. I THINK it's called a “movie”, but don't quote me on that.

Jamie takes Wanda to a makeshift planetarium that is really a bunch of glow worms on the walls. He shows her how if you make a loud noise it startles the worms and the lights go out for a few moments. I mention this scene because I want you to remember it for later. Having been eavesdropping on Jeb and Wanda earlier, he asks if Melanie really is alive. Melanie finally tells Wanda to tell him the truth, which she should have done in the first place but WHATEVS.  Jared and crew arrive at the store, which is simply called STORE. I guess the aliens really DO fix planets, they've eliminated Walmart! The rebels start raiding STORE as a cop car pulls up but they easily knock him out and throw him in one of the trucks.

Jeb puts Wanda to work harvesting wheat, where her and Ian make googly eyes at each other to Melanie's dismay. THANK YOU SWEET JESUS, A LOVE TRIANGLE! I'd almost forgotten I was watching a Stephenie Meyer story up until this!  Aunt Maggie passes out water to the workers but skips Wanda because she's a one note bitch like that. This prompts the chivalrous Ian to give Wanda his water while Melanie gets back to ruining the movie with her Mean Girls schtick because the previous few scenes were actually pretty decent and she sure as hell can't have THAT.

A seeker chopper flies overhead, the noise distracting Jamie and he accidentally cuts himself on the leg with his sickle. The chopper picks up the human convoy, noticing the lead truck is driving faster than the speed limit which is a dead giveaway. This is stupid because as the humans were leaving STORE Jared specifically told everyone no speeding.  The chopper hovers in front of the truck, the passenger opening fire with a rifle. It does nothing against the bulletproof chopper, but the driver tells him to keep firing anyway because... we needed some action to try to keep everyone in the audience awake?  The driver FINALLY gets the bright idea to try to drive away, but keeps running into seeker roadblocks. He runs the truck into a concrete wall at full speed, killing himself and the passenger rather than get captured.

Whoops, that was TOO MUCH action. Let's see what Wanda is doing. Ah, she's eating dinner with the resistance and talking about her life with the aliens.  Nah, that's too boring. Back to Jared! His truck is being chased by seekers while Kyle rides shotgun shooting at them. Jared slams on the brakes which causes the seeker to rear end him and wreck. Jared gets out to capture him, but Kruger pulls up before he can do so. She picks up the pistol that Kyle dropped as their truck got hit and starts to FIRE at them. So much for peaceful solutions and no killing, huh?

Instead of hitting them she accidentally headshots the seeker Jared was trying to capture, which makes this another episode of Don't Fuck With Diane Kruger!  Seeker Reed and some others pull up, horrified at what she's done but she doesn't give a single fuck. Reed says this is not their way and they're going to leave the humans alone to die out on their own. She is defiant to this idea, as she's starting to go Captain Ahab up in this bitch. Reed calls their kind “souls”, which I believe is the first time they've been named in the movie but the seeker stuff cuts back and forth so much the scenes don't register in the remnants of my brain.