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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Host

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Max Irons and Saoirse Ronan star in a scene from the movie "The Host."
Derived from a novel by "Twilight" author Stephenie Meyer, the ponderous, dramatically inept science fiction tale "The Host" (Open Road) is clearly aimed at teen viewers. But the murky circumstances of its central love affair make it too morally obscure for most adolescents.

As for those in a more mature demographic, while they may be better equipped to discern an ethically acceptable path through it all, they may not want to bother.

This ill-conceived dystopian project rests on the premise that alien spirits have taken over the bodies of most human beings.

As the opening narrative informs us, these highly evolved hijackers, with their tranquil personalities, have managed to resolve most of humanity's most pressing problems: war, world hunger, you name it. But, while they may be enlightened and unflappable, they also brook no opposition—just ask our youthful heroine Melanie Stryder (Saoirse Ronan).

Understandably unwilling to be transformed into an intergalactic Stepford wife, Melanie has been on the lam. But her fugitive days come to an abrupt end when she's captured and subjected to the forced infusion of an extraterrestrial consciousness (visualized as a kind of luminous creepy-crawly surgically inserted into the back of Melanie's neck).

Far from going quietly, however, spunky Melanie manages to retain her own soul through the process, much to the surprise of her new corporeal roommate, an entity called Wanderer. Here the fatal absurdity that undermines all that follows kicks in as Melanie and Wanderer begin an endless debate with each other via voice-over (Melanie) and dialogue (Wanderer).

The result might aptly be called "Sybil Meets the Body Snatchers."

If only this were an old-fashioned Western, Wanderer could put us all out of our misery by declaring: "This body ain't big enough for the both of us!" Instead, the increasingly sympathetic invader allows Melanie to convince her to return to, and aid, the band of earthlings with whom Melanie sheltered while on the run.

Led by folksy Uncle Jeb (William Hurt), these refugees include both Melanie's long-standing boyfriend, Jared (Max Irons), and the lad destined to win Wanderer's heart, Ian (Jake Abel). With two competing love interests, but only one mouth to kiss with, romantic complications—and more schizophrenic squabbling—inevitably ensue.

Flashbacks reveal that, before they came under Uncle Jeb's protection, Melanie and Jared were living together as a couple and doing their best to rear Melanie's kid brother, Jamie (Chandler Canterbury). The duo's relationship became physical, we learn, at Melanie's explicit invitation.

The extreme situation—talk about a clergy shortage!—may excuse this improvised marriage between two characters clearly destined to make their way into the sunset together. But, even so, immature moviegoers might easily be led astray by such a do-it-yourself approach to bonded bliss.

With Uncle Jeb, et al., struggling to trust Wanderer and Wanderer discovering some of the less savory aspects of human nature, writer-director Andrew Niccol earnestly introduces honorable themes concerning tolerance, nonviolence and altruism. But cavernous aesthetic flaws hopelessly undermine all his good intentions.

The film contains much action violence, fleeting gore, a suicide theme, cohabitation with brief semi-graphic sexual activity and a couple of crass terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.





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Junipero Serra: In 1776, when the American Revolution was beginning in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in California. That year a gray-robed Franciscan founded Mission San Juan Capistrano, now famous for its annually returning swallows. San Juan was the seventh of nine missions established under the direction of this indomitable Spaniard. 
<p>Born on Spain’s island of Mallorca, Serra entered the Franciscan Order, taking the name of St. Francis’ childlike companion, Brother Juniper. Until he was 35, he spent most of his time in the classroom—first as a student of theology and then as a professor. He also became famous for his preaching. Suddenly he gave it all up and followed the yearning that had begun years before when he heard about the missionary work of St. Francis Solanus in South America. Junipero’s desire was to convert native peoples in the New World. </p><p>Arriving by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico, he and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City. On the way Junipero’s left leg became infected by an insect bite and would remain a cross—sometimes life-threatening—for the rest of his life. For 18 years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula. He became president of the missions there. </p><p>Enter politics: the threat of a Russian invasion south from Alaska. Charles III of Spain ordered an expedition to beat Russia to the territory. So the last two <i>conquistadors</i>—one military, one spiritual—began their quest. José de Galvez persuaded Junipero to set out with him for present-day Monterey, California. The first mission founded after the 900-mile journey north was San Diego (1769). That year a shortage of food almost canceled the expedition. Vowing to stay with the local people, Junipero and another friar began a novena in preparation for St. Joseph’s day, March 19, the scheduled day of departure. On that day, the relief ship arrived. </p><p>Other missions followed: Monterey/Carmel (1770); San Antonio and San Gabriel (1771); San Luís Obispo (1772); San Francisco and San Juan Capistrano (1776); Santa Clara (1777); San Buenaventura (1782). Twelve more were founded after Serra’s death. </p><p>Junipero made the long trip to Mexico City to settle great differences with the military commander. He arrived at the point of death. The outcome was substantially what Junipero sought: the famous “Regulation” protecting the Indians and the missions. It was the basis for the first significant legislation in California, a “Bill of Rights” for Native Americans. </p><p>Because the Native Americans were living a nonhuman life from the Spanish point of view, the friars were made their legal guardians. The Native Americans were kept at the mission after Baptism lest they be corrupted in their former haunts—a move that has brought cries of “injustice” from some moderns. </p><p>Junipero’s missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic military commanders and even with danger of death from non-Christian native peoples. Through it all his unquenchable zeal was fed by prayer each night, often from midnight till dawn. He baptized over 6,000 people and confirmed 5,000. His travels would have circled the globe. He brought the Native Americans not only the gift of faith but also a decent standard of living. He won their love, as witnessed especially by their grief at his death. He is buried at Mission San Carlo Borromeo, Carmel, and was beatified in 1988. Pope Francis canonized him in Washington, D.C., on September 23, 2015.</p> American Catholic Blog Hope and faith can outshine the darkness of evil. However dense the darkness may appear, our hope for the triumph of the light is stronger still. Though violence continues to stain us with blood, the shadows of death can be dissipated with one act of light.

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