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Host, The

Entry updated 14 December 2018. Tagged: Film.

Film (2013). IAV International in association with Silver Reel. Written and directed by Andrew Niccol. Based on The Host (2008) by Stephenie Meyer. Cast includes Jake Abel, Emily Browning (uncredited), Chandler Canterbury, William Hurt, Max Irons, Diane Kruger and Saoirse Ronan. 125 minutes. Colour.

A race of benign interstellar parasites (see Parasitism and Symbiosis), who carry out the Colonization of Other Worlds by inserting their wormlike bodies into the brainstem of local host species, meet their match when a human teenager (Ronan) resists and wins the sympathy of the alien invader who possesses her; but romantic complications ensue when the two occupants of the same body fall for different members of the human resistance.

Niccol was not an obvious choice to adapt Twilight author Meyer's singleton sf novel, having built his career on high-concept originated works like Gattaca (1997), The Truman Show (1998), S1m0ne (2002), and In Time (2011); but he handles the leisurely and largely actionless source, a feminist Young Adult composite of Robert A Heinlein's The Puppet Masters (1951) and I Will Fear No Evil (1970), with considerable sensitivity and ingenuity, while giving full visual rein to his own trademark chic futurism in dressing the invaders' advanced sense of style. Ronan carries off a nearly unplayable role which consists largely of talking to herself, and the strengths of Meyer's sometimes amateurish narrative, voice, and worldview are faithfully captured, including her quietly subversive distaste for casual violence and unmediated conflict. The comforts of the standard Invasion narrative are pointedly resisted, with the alien occupiers guileless, non-violent, and well-intentioned, and sympathy aligned from the start with the centuries-old colonist heroine (the novel's narrator, a veteran of many previous worlds and species). Nevertheless, and despite palpably stronger talent and execution than the massively successful Twilight films, the film presented a riskily soft target for ridicule, and flopped badly at the box office. [NL]


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