Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Host [2013]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  Roger Ebert (2 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (C+) Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
Roger Ebert's review
AVClub (T. Robinson) review

The Host [2013] (screenplay and directed by Andrew Nichol based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer [IMDb]) is a teen-oriented "alien invasion" story in which a race of advanced intergalactic largely spiritual if parasitic beings calling themselves "Souls" invades earth by taking over the bodies of people displacing their minds/souls. 

Given the promised metaphysics [2] of this story (after all, how many stories would so unabashedly explore the potentialities of "souls" [2] these days?) I actually looked forward to this film :-).

Though I was somewhat disappointed in that the film IMHO didn't go far enough (even these intergalactic Souls did, alas, have a material component to them that had to be attached to a human brain so that the alien "Soul" could then possess it ... a truly "universal interface" I suppose ;-) ;-), I still enjoyed the film and found it to be a both teen and family friendly diversion that most parents would not find much trouble with.

Indeed, Stephenie Meyer's novel, which was written during the Bush-Cheney era run-up to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, may have (perhaps inadvertently, perhaps not) offered her readers a very interesting presentation of the central moral problem of any imperialist project: Even if the invading party in an imperialist conflict were to be morally superior to those being invaded (and the Alien "souls" of this story were, generally speaking, morally superior to the human souls that they were displacing: they were, after the invasion, kinder to other souls, treated the environment with greater respect and quickly put an end to all human wars...) those being invaded would still generally prefer to remain in charge of their own destinies even if it meant putting-up with their own (personal/society's) flaws. 

In this story, the displaced human souls/wills/minds (whatever one would wish to call them... I'm going to go with souls for the remainder of this essay) still present in their bodies, but no longer in charge of them, were, needless to say, resentful of the "enlightened" Alien souls that had displaced them. 

This then becomes the central conflict of the story:  Teenage Melanie (voiced/played by Saoirse Ronan) a member of the last free human resistance to the Alien invasion gets captured and an Alien Soul named Wander (also voiced by Saoirse Ronan) is implanted in her.  But (1) teenager Melanie isn't about to give up.  "Nobody's just gonna take over my body ;-)"  and (2) Wanderer soon nicknamed Wanda is actually kinda a "good soul" ;-) who likes Melanie and feels increasingly uncomfortable with having displaced her (Melanie's) own soul in order to control her body.  But where's Wanda supposed to go if she ceases to inhabit Melanie's body?

Then Melanie's soul (still in Melanie's body but no longer in charge of it) convinces Wanderer/Wanda to skip town and find the band of other free humans that Melanie had been part of.  Why?  Well, Melanie, of course, had a boyfriend ;-) named Jared (played by Max Irons) I believe.  And here it all gets REALLY COMPLICATED in a typically teenage sort of way (and in a way that Stephanie Meyer, who is most famous for writing the Twilight Saga, is IMHO absolutely brilliant in presenting ;-):

Melanie likes Jared.  But Wanda, controlling Melanie's body, but wanting to be a "good friend" to Melanie decides to prefer someone else.  But if she kisses the other guy is it Wanda who's kissing him or Melanie? And would/could Jared possibly understand the difference? ;-) ;-) -- From my distance of 30-35 years away from this kind of thinking I JUST LOVED THIS ;-) ;-).

Of course it all gets resolved AND in a manner characteristic of Stephenie Meyer's novels: the seemingly irreconcilable are able to find a way to reconcile.  In this case, the space invader and the invaded do find a way to become true and equal friends.  How this resolution is able to take place, I'm not going to tell you.  (Read the book or see the movie ;-).

Now I know that much of this story is really, really schlocky.  But in its own way, I find it brilliant as well.  And it honestly reminds me of my own younger years when EVERYTHING seemed far more dramatic than it becomes as one grows older.  Good job again Ms. Meyer!  Very good job!

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