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The Host

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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Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions: Andrew Dung-Lac was one of 117 people martyred in Vietnam between 1820 and 1862. Members of this group were beatified on four different occasions between 1900 and 1951. All were canonized by St. John Paul II. 
<p>Christianity came to Vietnam (then three separate kingdoms) through the Portuguese. Jesuits opened the first permanent mission at Da Nang in 1615. They ministered to Japanese Catholics who had been driven from Japan. </p><p>The king of one of the kingdoms banned all foreign missionaries and tried to make all Vietnamese deny their faith by trampling on a crucifix. Like the priest-holes in Ireland during English persecution, many hiding places were offered in homes of the faithful. </p><p>Severe persecutions were again launched three times in the 19th century. During the six decades after 1820, between 100,000 and 300,000 Catholics were killed or subjected to great hardship. Foreign missionaries martyred in the first wave included priests of the Paris Mission Society, and Spanish Dominican priests and tertiaries. </p><p>Persecution broke out again in 1847 when the emperor suspected foreign missionaries and Vietnamese Christians of sympathizing with a rebellion led by of one of his sons. </p><p>The last of the martyrs were 17 laypersons, one of them a 9-year-old, executed in 1862. That year a treaty with France guaranteed religious freedom to Catholics, but it did not stop all persecution. </p><p>By 1954 there were over a million and a half Catholics—about seven percent of the population—in the north. Buddhists represented about 60 percent. Persistent persecution forced some 670,000 Catholics to abandon lands, homes and possessions and flee to the south. In 1964, there were still 833,000 Catholics in the north, but many were in prison. In the south, Catholics were enjoying the first decade of religious freedom in centuries, their numbers swelled by refugees. </p><p>During the Vietnamese war, Catholics again suffered in the north, and again moved to the south in great numbers. Now the whole country is under Communist rule.</p> American Catholic Blog I discovered that my sins had created a spiritual racket that drowned out the gentle whispers of God to my soul; God had never actually abandoned me, but I needed repentance and sacramental grace to reawaken all that was good and beautiful in me.

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