Well, today I had the day off work so decided to go and see 'The Host' which came out this weekend and which I've been looking forward to for some months now. I thought it was fantastic, as soon as it was finished I just wanted to watch it again! That's one DVD I'll definitely be getting.
The film is based on the book by Stephenie Meyer and I really loved the book when I read it a few years ago. Twilight was much more in-your-face when the movie arrived, though The Host does have a huge fanbase, but I have to say I definitely prefer The Host to Twilight. Admittedly this is partly because I'm not a huge Pattinson/Stewart fan (they're fine, but not really Edward/Bella for me).
Anyway, the book and the film were both great in my opinion, this is one film worth watching.
Blurb (from the book):
Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. The earth has been invaded by a species that take over the minds of their human hosts while leaving their bodies intact, and most of humanity has succumbed.
Wanderer, the invading "soul" who has been given Melanie's body, knew about the challenges of living inside a human: the overwhelming emotions, the too vivid memories. But there was one difficulty Wanderer didn't expect: the former tenant of her body refusing to relinquish possession of her mind.
Melanie fills Wanderer's thoughts with visions of the man Melanie loves - Jared, a human who still lives in hiding. Unable to separate herself from her body's desires, Wanderer yearns for a man she's never met. As outside forces make Wanderer and Melanie unwilling allies, they set off to search for the man they both love.
So this post is my comparison between book and film - what I liked/disliked etc.
I thought that all of the characters were portrayed really well - very true to the book, generally I think that casting was great - more detailed comments as follows:
- Melanie Stryder/Wanderer - played by Saoirse Ronan (and Emily Browning as Wanda at the end) - I've been aware of Saoirse Ronan for some time as an actress (though oddly, until today when I watched an interview I'd never heard her speak in her real - Irish - accent) and I do think she's rather brilliant, but when I heard that she was going to play Melanie, I wasn't completely convinced, but having now seen the film I think she was a great casting choice. She's not quite how I imagined Melanie to be, but she fits the role very well. I like how she used a slightly different voice for Melanie and for Wanda and how she played the characters quite distinctly from each other. Emily Browning is an actress I like, and was not at all who I was expecting for Wanda at the end. Despite being different from the description, I think she was a nice choice for Wanda.
- Jared Howe - played my Max Irons - I didn't remember seeing Max Irons in any films before, though now I realise he was in Red Riding Hood and in Dorian Grey, both of which I have seen. Clearly those films didn't leave much of an impression on me. However, I think that was probably a good thing as I saw him as a fresh face, again not quite how I imaged Jared but he fits the description well. I think the he pulls off the character quite well, and the character development throughout the film is great.
- Jamie Stryder - played by Chandler Canterbury - Another actor who it turns out I must have seen in other films (Benjamin Button, Repo Men) but clearly didn't leave a lasting memory. Ignoring the fact that they changed Jamie's age, I think that he was a fantastic choice. He was very believable as Jamie and probably my favourite moment with Jamie was near the beginning where he's looking down at Wanda and says something along the lines of 'I'm not a kid anymore' and his expression was really intense - someone who has lived through a lot. Fab choice.
- Ian O'Shea - played by Jake Abel - I clearly do not pay enough attention to these people in films. Another one who it turns out I've seen in multiple films - Luke in Percy Jackson, Mark in I am Number Four both films that I rather like. Anyway, this is my favourite role that I've seen him in. He's rather beautiful which doesn't hurt, but I also think he suited the character really well. He was one of my favourite characters in the film, one of the ones with the biggest conscience I think.
- Uncle Jeb - played by William Hurt - Amazing. I've never had a really fixed picture of Jeb in my head but he just fit perfectly (of course, as with all the characters, a bit of make up and costuming goes a big way, so awesome work to those teams too). The intonation of his speech and the way he interacted with the other characters was just as I imagined it from the book.
- The Seeker/Lacey - played by Diane Kruger - I adore Diane Kruger. She's one of my favourite actresses. She is also looks absolutely nothing like the Seeker I imagined from the book. I can't remember the descriptions of the Seeker but I thought she was smaller, more feline perhaps with dark hair and wearing all black. Despite looking nothing like the character I invisioned, I think she was a good choice for the role. She is great at portraying the little nuances, very subtle facial expressions to reflect her thoughts etc.
- Kyle O'Shea - played by Boyd Holbrook - seemed less of a main character in the film than in the book. Again, the actor fit the bill rather well.
- Doc - played by Scott Lawrence - I don't know how I pictured Doc, not like this, but he played it perfectly.
I thought that generally the set design/location choices were fantastic - great desert coverage, the caverns were as I imagined them. I particularly liked the set up with the crops, the mirrors and how to close up the top to avoid being seen, wasn't sure how they were going to show that but it was done very well. I expected Wanda's 'cell' to be a smaller room with a lower roof, more of small storage hole, can't remember how it was described, but it worked well enough as it was in the film. I don't remember the glow worm cave from the book - probably a new film addition (or it's just been a while since I read the book) but it was a nice addition.
The choice to put the seekers in white was the most noticeable one for me, and I thought that it worked very well. It was perhaps a better way to show the souls as peaceful law abiders/controllers and avoiding mental associations with other black-clad hunter types. The costumes for the seekers were also simpler than I was expecting but I think it worked well. The Seeker was often in simple white trousers and a white t-shirt or tank top, there were some more tailored pieces I think, but generally quite simple and functional. The only distinct thing was her brown high heeled boots which were an interesting addition. The costuming for the humans living in the caverns was good, I barely remember most of it so it must have blended in well for the environment which is how it should be. The make up for Wanda/Mel when she was basically dying in the desert before Jeb found her was done very realistically, nice sunburnt, dying look. Generally great make up etc.
Overall, I thought the cinematography was great, the appearance was very much how I imagined it all to be. Beautiful choice. I particularly liked the scene towards the end when Wanda wakes up in her new body, I think that was put together very well.
- Jamie's age - As mentioned, it has been a while since I read the book, but from what I recall, I think the time between Mel getting captured and making it to the caverns is significantly longer than in the film, meaning that Jamie is a teenager by the time Mel gets back, maybe 14? He goes out on raids and is trusted with a loaded gun. In Mel's memories of before Wanda was put into her, Jamie is significantly younger. I think that the continuity of using the same actor for Jamie in the memories and the later happenings of the film is really good. It allows for more of an attachment with the character and for immediate recognition. This change wasn't something that particularly bothered me - Jamie in the book is still vulnerable and younger than the others, someone who is just like a little boy with Mel at moments, and so their relationship didn't seem damaged by the choice to keep him young. I think they did well to maintain the important storyline elements with the changes made to accommodate his age. Namely, he was given a gun but Jeb later shows that it wasn't loaded and he also doesn't go on raids and consequently isn't injured in a raid but instead by his own knife while harvesting the grain.
Edit: I just looked up the actors age and it looks like he was probably 14ish when filming, just thought he looked younger! I also assumed it because they did make the changes (gun/no raids etc.) I still think that they changed the length of time Melanie is away.
- Wanda attacks the Seeker and so is kept in her room, guarded by a seeker, where she is to wait until being put into a new body - at this point in the book I think it is only the suspicion of The Seeker, not yet confirmed fact, that Mel is still present with Wanda. So she is not confined anywhere and is free to go where she likes (though she is watched carefully by the Seeker). Again, not a huge problem to leave out, means they got to add in a little escaping scene which I thought was rather good. A jump from a balcony followed by a moment borrowing a car from a stranger which shows the way of life for the souls - they don't lie to each other, and trust each other.
- Wanda is tricked by Mel to go into the desert after the others - in the book, Wanda decides to go search for Jeb and the others and even stocks up on a few things for desert trekking before going. In the film she is misled by Mel to drive into the desert and when Wanda realises, Mel causes her to crash the car resulting in them walking into the desert on Mel's direction. Again, I can see why they changed this, it allows them to skip over any preparation to go. The only thing I noticed from this is that when Mel/Wanda arrives, she is dressed rather inappropriately for a desert hike.
- The medicine and the souls insertion/removal- in the book there are different types of medicine and different ways of applying them - squares to be dissolved in the mouth, liquids to pour into wounds etc. In the film they are all strange sprays. Doesn't make a huge difference visually. Also, the insertion and removal of souls looks a bit different to how it is described, but works better visually than it would sticking absolutely to the book.
- When Wanda and Jared go for medicine, no one tries to stop them - this suggests that the other humans trust Wanda more, but I think that the book was more realistic where some (like Maggie) maintained their assertion that Wanda was still the enemy and insisted she should not be allowed to leave (or later - return). It was a little too simple for her to get out with Jared and later return with him without anyone checking they were still human. I can see why this was skipped to save time and I don't think it makes a huge difference, it's just a little niggle.
- Other prominent seekers - in the book I don't remember much about any other seekers, but obviously in a film it is important to show The Seeker and her efforts to locate Mel which of course do involve other seekers she works with. Generally done well.
- Mel and Jamie's dad killed himself - in the book he was taken over and led the seekers back to Mel and Jamie but they got away. I had wondered whether this would be significant in any other books as he could potentially be a returning character, but as he killed himself rather than allow them to discover his children I assume this will not be an important story or Stephenie Meyer would have insisted on it staying true to the book.
- Meeting the other humans at the end in the city not the desert - I think that in the book the other humans had discovered one of their caches and had stayed to find the other humans but in this one they chase down the car and surround them in a road which appears to be close-ish to the city. This seems very unusual to me as surely this sort of behaviour would be too noticeable to the souls for any humans who have been smart enough to survive to partake in. I do like the ending, but I find it a little less convincing than meeting them in the desert. I also don't remember them using the term 'gone native' which I rather liked in the book, so was a bit disappointed by lack thereof.
Things they left out
- The comforter - In the book, Wanderer has a comforter (Kathy) who is basically like a counsellor, talking her through things, helping her to get used to life in a human body and discussing things with her about how it is to live as a human. This was a good way to show how the souls live. I think that in the film they did very well to portray the souls as they did given that the main souls you saw were seekers.
- The other planets they had taken over - the stories in the book about the different planets that Wanderer has been to are really interesting, but I can see that for time reasons they would need to be cut.
- The whole Kyle/Jodi/Sunny thing - I guess this is what made Kyle a slightly more notable character, but I can understand that it wasn't vital and would need to be cut for time. However, I do think that not mentioning that some humans have had souls in them too long and don't wake up when the soul is removed does make the ending (where Wanda is put into one of these bodies) seem like a bit of a deus ex machina, a very convenient thing to allow Wanda to stay on earth. Especially as they say that they've been removing souls for months and this body didn't wake up without saying any others didn't. However, I do like that she was just a body that didn't wake up and that they didn't go and pick her like they did in the book (which I find a bit weird).
- Getting to know other people in the community - I know that it's a film, and there are time constraints, and I do think they did well with the end film, but I do miss some of the little side stories mentioned in the book. The relationship between Lily and Wes, seeing more of how the people worked, lived and played together and how the community survived in this way.
- A quote I liked:
“You know whats really twisted?" - IanI thought this was a great quote, one that showed Ian's changing perspective of Wanda/Mel.
“What?” - Jared
“I feel guilty - guilty as hell - watching her flinch away from us. Seeing the black marks on her neck.” - Ian
”You can’t let it get to you like that. It’s not human. Don’t forget that." - Jared
”Just because she isn’t human, do you think that she doesn’t feel pain? That she doesn’t feel like a girl who’s been beaten - beaten by us?" - Ian
I was surprised by the fact that I was much more interested in the relationship between Ian and Wanda than the one between Melanie and Jared. In the book, Melanie's love for Jared is such a strong theme and the memories of him are so emotionally driven that I found myself very attached to their relationship, however in the film, despite loving the flashbacks showing their relationship beginning, I think that Ian and Wanda's connection was much more engaging. The overall portrayal of the love triangle/rectangle between Jared, Mel/Wanda and Ian was done very well.
Basically, in short, there was nothing I really disliked about this film, I missed a few things from the books but all of them were understandable cuts. I think that the people involved in making this film did an excellent job and I will be buying it when it comes out on DVD. Also will probably re-read it in the near future.
It has been suggested that this may become a trilogy of books, which I would not be adverse to. I think it makes a nice stand alone book/film but if Stephenie Meyer can make two more books which are just as good as the first then I would certainly be happy to read them! (And potentially watch them, if they are made into films).
Lastly, I love the song from the credits - enjoy!