Imagine a not-too distant future where the entire planet Earth is finally at peace. Imagine a world where humanity no longer suffers from disease, famine, ill health or from a lack of resources. Wars are a thing of the past, crimes of any kind are a thing of fiction, and no one dies from a violent act at the hands of another, but by natural causes. The planet's environment has been restored to a healthy, sustainable balance, and there is plenty to go around, including free medicine. People are courteous, honest and never harbor any ill-will towards others, even when confronted by resistance. There is no longer a need, want or desire for material wealth since everything is practically complimentary and without charge. All of humanity works together towards the common good of living life at peace.
Now, imagine such a utopic future is in reality a dystopic nightmare though the reasons, if any, are superficially vague because that is the actual premise behind the ridiculously idiotic 'The Host.' Despite never showing, let alone telling, audiences why such a future is terrible or undesirable, director Andrew Niccol, who frankly hits an all-time low with this foul-tasting fiasco masquerading as science fiction, wants us to believe that it is bad just because he says so. Oh, wait. There is that one pesky issue with the possibility of such a wonderful, imaginary future caused by an alien invasion. Highly-intelligent, parasitic beings called "Souls" (yeah, the level of intellectual creativity is astounding here) take over human brains, making them, ready for this, more peaceful and loving.
I could probably be a bit more welcoming to Niccol's latest effort if we were given more tangible, concrete reasons for disliking the space travelers, which apparently have done better with our planet in a few, short years than we ever have for ten millennia. But as it stands, there's no real indication for thinking these "Souls" as villains, and thus, fails to provide the plot with the requisite narrative thrust that would have us cheering for a small pocket of humans still fighting the so-called good fight. We could argue that Diane Kruger's obsessively determined character is the story's clear baddie. And while that may be true on the surface, even her own kind turn against her as she begins to display anger, hatred and a willingness to murder — human traits most intelligent people would agree are also undesirable and objectionable.
Others will be quick to jump on the concept of consciousness and free will which are mildly hinted at but never fully explored, if at all by any stretch of the imagination. (A voice-over that also functions like an internal monologue is apparently as far as that conversation goes.) Instead, any issues related the human mind are relegated to simple plot devices serving the movie's more pressing concern: an absurdly laughable love triangle that panders to the mawkish understanding of teens. Showing a lack of imagination — or an original thought, for that matter — Stephenie Meyer's story, on which Niccol's script is based on, retools the Edward-Bella-Jacob nonsense into a bizarre yet unintentionally hilarious foursome. The poor girl literally split of minds can't decide on one boy or both. It's nice to know that even while in the midst of an alien invasion, humans are still capable of such self-pitying, sickeningly excessive melodrama.
Much of the problem in the tug-a-war love battle between Max Irons and Jake Abel, I am really, genuinely sorry to say, is with Saoirse Ronan. The young actress has been such a phenomena to watch in Joe Wright's 'Atonement' and a remarkable joy in 'Hanna,' with the amazing talent of making weak bores like Peter Jackson's 'The Lovely Bones' and 'City of Ember' bearable, that I regret mentioning her performance as practically aggravating and maddening. Ronan has shown she can carry a film, but sadly demonstrates here, she is not a romantic lead. It doesn't help that her first collaboration with Niccol is also an absolute chore of a mess, making the two-hour runtime feel more like I've waste my entire day.
Along with Ronan's talents, the stunning cinematography of Roberto Schaefer is completely wasted on a story that's derivative, hilariously maudlin, amateur, excruciatingly boring and quite frankly, idiotic. 'The Host' wins my vote for the worst, big-budgeted sci-fi film since the disastrously awful 'Battlefield Earth.'
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Universal Studios Home Entertainment brings 'The Host' to Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack with an UltraViolet Digital Copy. Housed inside a blue, eco keepcase with a glossy, lightly embossed slipcover, the Region Free, BD50 disc sits comfortable on a panel opposite a DVD-9 copy. After a series of skippable trailers, viewers are taken to the studio's usual menu screen options with music and a static photo.
'The Host' debuts unto Blu-ray with an exceptional and remarkable 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode that's leaps and bounds better than the movie deserves. The video displays razor-sharp details from beginning to end, starting with the fine lines of hairs in the cast and the often extraordinary lifelike textures in the faces. When not counting the individual wrinkles on William Hurt and Frances Fisher, we're staring at the visible pores and trivial blemishes in the rest of the cast. We can plainly make out the threading and stitching in the clothing of humans while the outfits of the aliens look spotless and hygienic. The tiniest pebble on the desert floor and the most miniscule imperfection in the rock formations is distinct.
Presented in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio, the image also arrives with pitch-perfect contrast and brilliant, sparkling whites, allowing for some beautifully breathtaking panoramic scenes of New Mexico. Visibility into the far distance is often spectacular, giving viewers the opportunity to really enjoy and appreciate the amazing photography of Roberto Schaefer. Primaries are richly-saturated and vibrant, providing the film with a great deal of eye-candy, and the softer pastel hues are equally bold and bull-bodied, creating plenty of warmth and a welcoming picture. Black levels are inky and luxurious with superb gradational details and excellent discernibility within the darkest portions. With appreciable dimensionality throughout, the teen sci-fi drama lands with a reference quality transfer.
While not quite the perfect complement to the video, the Andrew Niccol film, nevertheless, invades with an excellent and satisfying DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack.
Being more of a character-driven drama than a smart and ingenious sci-fi flick, much of the action unfolds in the front soundstage where imaging feels widespread and welcoming. Discrete off-screen effects are convincing and create an amusing wall of sound, keeping the listener engaged for the whole of the movie's runtime. The mid-range and acoustical details are distinct with lots of rich clarity, making conversations inside the caves quite effective and realistic. Surprisingly, there's not much going on in the low-end, except for a couple of noteworthy moments which pack a decent punch. Dialogue remains precise and crystal-clear throughout.
Rear activity is occasionally used for extending the soundfield and some mildly amusing instances of envelopment. At its best, such as the scenes with the helicopter, panning and directionality are seamless, offering one or two sequences of envelopment, making the lossless mix a fun and entertaining listen.
Excruciatingly dull, hilariously maudlin, and quite frankly, idiotic, Andrew Niccol's 'The Host,' an adaptation of the popular Stephenie Meyer book, is a laughable dud that frustrates the imagination more than it inspires an intellectual discussion, with a nonsensical and preposterous plot about overtly courteous alien invaders. Not since the miserably stupid 'Battlefield Earth' has a sci-fi movie been this embarrassingly bad and pathetically mediocre, so best thing to do is forget it was ever made. Unfortunately, the Blu-ray arrives with reference quality video and an excellent audio presentation. Supplements fail to provide any added value to the overall package, but fans, I imagine, will ultimately be satisfied. For others, this is another case of a bad flick on a good disc.