Adapted from The Host by Stephenie Meyer (2008, Sphere)
SAOIRSE RONAN ~ Melanie Stryder/Wanda
MAX IRONS ~ Jared Howe
JAKE ABEL ~ Ian O’Shea
WILLIAM HURT ~ Jeb
CHANDLER CANTERBURY ~ Jamie
DIANE KRUGER ~ The Seeker
What’s it about?
A parasitic race has invaded the Earth, taking over the bodies of humans. Wanderer is placed in to the body Melanie Stryder, of one of the last humans to remain themselves. In Melanie mind’s, Wandered gets a shock Melanie is still there, fighting against Wanderer for her mind and her memories. Can they share a body in harmony or will Melanie and Wanderer fight it out until one of them gives?
How does it hold up?
After the Twilight series, The Host was a bit of a surprise. I’d never knowingly read a sci-fi novel before and it’s unlikely I would have read The Host if it hadn’t been written by Stephenie Meyer. Shockingly, I absolutely loved it and passed it on to my mum who loved it as well.
When I heard that it was being made into a film I was really quite doubtful. The Host is such an internal novel and I mean, how on earth were they going to get the actress to simultaneously portray to different characters in the same body?! Unfortunately, I don’t think Saoirse Ronan quite pulled it off. The only real glimpses we got of Melanie were through flashbacks and she just didn't seem any different to Wanda to me. There were no quirks, characteristics or inflections that subtly define a personality and I was rather disappointed. I did enjoy the flashbacks though; they were passionate and intense and led my loyalty to lay with Melanie over Wanda whereas I ended up liking them both equally in the novel.
As it was around a five year gap between reading the book and watching the film, I think I probably had less of a grasp of character differences than other people, but the only other character portrayal that I noticed as sharply different to the book’s was Jared. I hated him during Wanda’s initial time in the cave. He was mean and horrible, even though I understood and empathised with his reaction to Wanda taking Melanie’s body. In the film, he came across as more of a stroppy teenager who won’t listen when someone I trying to explain something to them. Though he fluctuated a little, I thought that Max Irons did a really good job of portraying Jared’s torment about the situation.
The inhabited humans were cool, calm and creepy and really provided a sense of unnerving threat in the chases and especially when Wanda was in the hospital at the beginning. I definitely think that the atmosphere was well captured in those scenes. One of the biggest surprises about this adaption was the role of The Seeker played by Diane Kruger. I didn't remember her having such a strong presence and I loved seeing how in retaliating to Wanda being humanised almost, she was too. I really enjoyed it when she was on screen. On a similar topic, I thought that Ian’s immerging feelings for Wanda came across perfectly: hesitant, confusing for Ian and a surprise to everyone else.
For me, the real star of the movie was Chandler Canterbury as Jamie. His sincerity and clear grasp of his character was obvious and I really think that boy is going to go on to do great things. He should, anyway! I loved Jamie’s relationship with Wanda and Melanie; a strong sibling relationship really pulls at my heartstrings! It was honestly Canterbury’s performance that stayed with me and hit me the hardest while watching the film and although it is partly the driving force in the novel, I felt it came through more strongly in the adaptation.
The adaptation of The Host felt distinctly more YA than the novel, which makes sense as the book isn’t YA! I felt like everything was a little toned down and definitely squished up – though that’s perfectly understandable as the book’s around 600 pages! With the ending came a healthy dose of cheese, me getting a little emotional (yeah, we all know I’m a sap by now!) and the resounding message of the book: the strength and beauty of love, nature and the earth and the power of an instinct to survive.
Though The Host started slow, I really enjoyed the adaptation and I was left wanting to re-read the novel. I think my enjoyment of the film may have something to do with my love of the book though as lots of friends of mine who haven’t read it really didn’t enjoy the film at all.
Did they capture the essence of the book for you? How did you think Saoirse Ronan handled the role? Jared or Ian? Melanie or Wanda?