THE HOST – Blu-ray review

Whether you like it or not, author Stephenie Meyer created a worldwide phenomenon with her Twilight series. The books were adapted into a hugely successful film franchise as Twi-hards turned out in droves to watch Kristen Stewart choose between the hunky werewolf Jacob or the pale, sparkly vampire Edward. Meyer looked to catch lightning in a bottle once more with her follow-up novel The Host, which has been turned into a big-budget picture by Open Road Films and Universal.

“The Host” falls firmly into the realm of science fiction, but continues many of the themes Meyer tackled in “Twilight,” specifically teen romance and a female protagonist trying to find her place in a topsy-turvy world. “The Host” is basically “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” for tweens as the Earth is invaded by alien beings known as ‘Souls.’ The Souls quickly possess the majority of the human population with only a few scattered pockets of resistance. Among those still free is Melanie Stryder (Saoirse Ronan), whose father chose to kill himself rather than be taken. Melanie has survived on the run alongside her younger brother, Jamie (Chandler Canterbury), and boyfriend Jared Howe (Max Irons, son of Jeremy Irons). Unfortunately, she is captured on a supply run by a Seeker (Diane Kruger) and implanted with a Soul known as Wanderer. Melanie’s spirit remains strong and she resists Wanderer’s attempts to access her memories to discover the whereabouts of other free humans.

Melanie and Wanderer enter into a reluctant symbiosis as they evade the Seeker and journey to Melanie’s home in the Arizona desert. There, her Uncle Jeb (William Hurt) has transformed a vast cave system into a self-sustaining sanctuary. Jeb takes Wanderer in and nicknames her Wanda in spite of everyone’s protests and firm belief that Melanie is dead. The plot thickens when Wanda develops feelings for the hunky Ian O’Shea (Jake Abel).

The crux of the story revolves around the odd love triangle in which two girls share one body. It’s a credit to the abilities of Saoirse Ronan that she is able to argue with herself less silly. This is certainly a Herculean task given the hoary dialogue Ronan is forced to speak, such as “Kiss me like you want to get slapped.” The tangled romance loses more credibility given that Melanie/Wanda’s love interests are a couple of cardboard cutouts from an Abercrombie & Fitch display. The movie slowly atrophies once it focuses on the young and the beautiful as they moon for each other.

“The Host” doesn’t get off to a bad start. Director Andrew Niccol, who also helmed “Gattaca” and “In Time” (along with the underrated “Lord of War”), knows how to handle slick sci-fi. Niccol sets the right atmosphere by immersing us into the sleek, utilitarian society of the Souls with their chrome sports cars and minimalist shops simply named “Store.” However, once “The Host” settles into the desert caves, the story slows to a crawl as we are introduced to a number of uninteresting characters and their equally insipid relationships. On the positive side, Melanie is a stronger and more independent heroine than “Twilight’s” passive and mopey Bella. Also, you can always count on actors like William Hurt, Frances Fisher, and Diane Kruger to bring some gravitas to even the most lackluster material.

Video:
The video is presented in 1080p with an aspect ratio of 2.40:1. Despite being a terrible movie, “The Host” does sport a reference quality transfer with bright and bold colors. The gleam in the chrome vehicles shine through along with the oranges and yellows of Arizona and the freckles on Saoirse Ronan’s face.

Audio:
The audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The sound is wonderfully mixed with dialogue coming in crisp and clear. Car chases and action sequences are given a robust boost.

Extras:
The Blu-ray includes an audio commentary with Andrew Niccol, Stephenie Meyer, and producer Nick Wechsler. The track isn’t the most energetic, but the participants discuss the differences between the film and novel, casting Ronan after seeing “Hanna,” and building the extensive desert sets.

Bringing the Host to Life (7:42) is the standard EPK behind-the-scenes featurette.

Seeker PSA (1:16) is a faux commercial warning other Souls of the dangers of human beings.

Rounding out the Blu-ray are trailers and a collection of four deleted scenes. You’ll also get a DVD version of the movie along with download codes for Digital Copy and an Ultraviolet copy.

Film Value:
If you’re going to watch a movie titled “The Host,” skip this Stephenie Meyer adaptation and go for Bong Joon-ho’s monster movie instead.

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