After the Twilight panel at San Diego Comic Con, there was a huge surprise — the first footage from The Host, the adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's alien-invasion novel directed by Andrew Niccol (Gattaca, Now). And the good news is, The Host looks like a beautifully shot movie with some lovely action sequences. There's just one major, huge problem with it.
The Host takes place in a world where alien parasites have successfully invaded, occupying the bodies of almost all humans. The parasites pacify and control their human hosts — and the result, in Niccol's hands, is a sterile world full of cement blocks. The alien-possessed humans all have weird swirly blue eyes and a creepy affect, and they love shininess. The alien "Seekers" wear all white suits and drive shiny gold cars.
We saw several rough scenes from The Host, and it looks stunning.
The footage begins with Melanie (Saoirse Ronan) being chased by the aliens. She runs up and up a stairway, trying to escape, but she's cornered — so she keeps running and throws herself out the window.
Then she wakes up — and she's perfectly well. But she's been implanted with an alien parasite. The "Healer" who implanted her asks what she wants to be called. "Call me... Wanderer," she says. Ronan does a great job looking spooky and creeptastic as an alien-possessed girl.
Then Wanderer is in a briefing, where another alien is telling her that almost every human has been "successfully occupied" — but there are still pockets of resistance, including one which Melanie, Wanderer's host, belonged to. So Wanderer sets about digging into Melanie's memories of growing up in Louisiana with her dad and her brother. We see Young Melanie on a skateboard, with a cute dog. They avoided the first wave of colonization, but then the Seekers came for Melanie's family — so her father blew his brains out, while Melanie and her brother hid under the docks in the water. The father killed himself, so they couldn't implant him with a parasite and find out how to get his children.
And then, as Wanderer replays Melanie's memories of being on the run with her brother and joining the resistance, Melanie starts to resist. And this is where we confront the major problem with this film — we hear Melanie's voice yelling at Wanderer inside her head, and it's kind of a zany voiceover thing. It works about as well as you might expect. We glimpse bits of Melanie among the resistance, including dancing with her boyfriend, Jared. There's sweet plinky guitar music.
Next, we see Melanie driving in the desert looking for Melanie's resistance friends — and she finds them. She's taken prisoner, and we see them marching her through the desert, blindfolded. One of them is carrying a shovel. The desert landscapes are gorgeously shot. Then Wanderer wakes up in a cave, with her brother watching over her. The other resistance humans want to come and kill her — including her boyfriend. But Melanie's brother resists, and it turns into a scuffle. Soon the other humans are beating Melanie's brother, and Wanderer shouts that they can do what they want to her, but leave her brother alone. "Fight back!" Melanie's voice shouts in Wanderer's head, as the resistance humans try to attack both Wanderer and Melanie's brother.
And then there's a shotgun blast, and an old guy says "Evening everyone. I hate to remind you, but this is my place, and you are my guests. For the moment, she is too. I don't take kindly to my guests strangling each other." Everybody stops.
And then we saw a big chase scene, where two humans in a pickup truck are being chased by Seekers with helicopters and sports cars. The humans keep shooting at the helicopter with a rifle, with limited results. There's a crazy car chase, where the aliens keep dogging the lone humans. "Don't get caught," mutters one of two humans watching all of this from a distance. At last, the humans are surrounded, and they come to a stop. They look at their machine gun, trying to decide whether they can shoot their way out — and then, instead, they drive into a concrete divider at top speed.
All in all, the footage was gorgeous and just the sort of dystopian weirdness that Andrew Niccol does so well — except that the "Melanie speaks in Wanderer's head" thing seemed unavoidably cheesy and silly.