The Book: 2008
Written by Stephenie Meyer
The Film: 2013
Directed by Andrew Niccol (Chockstone Pictures)
This past week, along with the lovely ladies from Book Club, I went to see The Host in theatres. I had heard mixed things about it but avoided specific details—I wanted to go in with an open mind. The film has a running time of 125 minutes. Within the first 5 I was thinking “Oh, this isn’t gonna be good.”
I loved the book! (You can read my review here.) I thought this story about aliens possessing human bodies so that they could make Earth peaceful was surprisingly emotional, thoughtful and very captivating. I became so entangled with the characters that when they hurt, I hurt. I had no such response to the film.
I get it; it’s hard to squeeze a 600-page book into a 2 hour film, and to the filmmakers’ credit the movie did follow the book’s plot for the most part (it at least hit all the major plot points). But it was jumpy. You can’t just jump between plot points and expect everything to be OK without showing some of the time in between, because it is in those in-between moments where the character development happens. It was like: they want to kill Wanderer, now they like/love her; they don’t trust her, now they do. The plot needed to be stretched out more. Another half-hour added to the film could have allowed for more character development (and from my experience, if you get something right, people really don’t mind sitting there for that extra half-hour). I just didn’t really care about these characters, which is a shame because I loved them so much in the book.
Most of the casting was well done—William Hurt’s Uncle Jeb was especially spot on with his book counterpart. Their lines were a different issue… The simplistic script combined with the jumpy plot made for a very cheesy movie, I’m sad to say. I liked the way Wanderer talked to herself and Melanie’s voice was a voice-over to make the distinction between the two. Still, Melanie’s airy voice did not sound like a real person and I found it sounding over the top instead of emotional. She did have some good funny lines though.
What I did like about the script was that there were several lines taken right from the book, and those lines always made me smile. (SPOILER ALERT: If you don’t want specific plot details, jump to the next paragraph) However, I cannot excuse the fact that they left out my favourite line in the whole book! They included the scene when Wanda tells Ian he couldn’t possibly love her as she really is, and they included Ian looking in wonder at a Soul, but they couldn’t take two seconds to have him say “I held you in my hand, Wanderer, and you were beautiful”?! All of the pieces were in place. Come on! I know for people who haven’t read the book, this doesn’t seem like a big deal, but for me it was just one more strike against the film.
I gave the book 5/5 because of how much it affected me; I give the film 2.5/5 simply because there were some scenes that I thought were done well and it largely followed the plot. Sorry movie, but the book kicks your cheesy butt.
If you read The Host, how did you feel the movie stacks up? If you haven’t read the book, what did you think of the film on its own? Share your thoughts in comments.
Please visit the “Popcorn and a Book” main page for more comparisons between books and their film adaptations.