The Host: a post-mortem
Savaged by critics and bombing in theatres, The Host looks set to be Stephenie Meyer’s first ever flop. The movie currently holds a 10% score on Rotten Tomatoes – far worse and any of the Twilight films – and has thus far grossed well below its reported budget of $40M.
This movie was not screened for critics prior to its launch – always the sign of a masterpiece in the making – and so its poor reviews are not particularly surprising. What was surprising, at least to me, was the movie’s commercial failure. The movie spawned some truly enticing trailers, and the Stephenie Meyer connection alone seemed enough to guarantee success.
So what, then, went wrong?
1. Poor source material
I won’t deny it: I didn’t like the book at all. I found it to be poorly written, overly long and largely devoid of plot. That is not, however, what I’m referring to here.
Much of The Host revolves around the interactions between Melanie and Wanderer/Wanda. Though Melanie is only capable of intermittent control over her own body, she and Wanda share a mental link through which she can transmit memories and communicate her thoughts. With the emphasis on internal dialogue so high, there was really no way that this could accurately be adapted to film.
For some reason, Andrew Niccol has opted to have Wanda speak out loud and Melanie talk via a voice-over. Personally, I’d have done it so that only Wanda’s side of the discussion could be heard. This would move the movie further from the novel, but would at least have sounded less ridiculous to listen to.
An additional problem is the premise. Bodysnatcher romance just doesn’t have the same ring to it that vampire romance had.
2. Audience fatigue
Many paranormal romance movies have been released in the wake of the Twilight series. If the spectacular failure of Beautiful Creatures is anything to go by, audiences are already beginning to tire of it. It would perhaps have been a better idea to wait a while longer before releasing this movie, which brings me to…
3. Poor release timing.
Put simply, this should have been a summer release. March was not the right time at all, particularly as several big movies were still running at the time.
4. Lack of advertising
It seems that executives had either already given up on this movie or were assuming that having Meyer on board was enough. Either way, the film received surprisingly little publicity. Advertising for this movie was practically non-existent and many people still seem to be unaware that it even exists.
Personally, I’m not entirely sure what to think of all this. I have always considered Meyer to be highly overrated and can’t help but take a bit of childish pleasure at the thought of her finally encountering failure. On the other hand, I had hopes for this film and was disappointed to see it turn out the way it did. Furthermore, the success of The Host would have greatly bolstered interest in both parasitic/symbiotic aliens and science fiction in general, potentially spawning some very interesting stories (for me, at any rate) further down the line.
It is now very unlikely that this will spawn a movie series at all, let alone one on the scale of the Twilight Saga. Worse, the sequel novel is nowhere to be seen despite Meyer’s repeated assertions that one is in the making. Unless she does something soon, this movie’s failure could well mark the end of her time in the spotlight.