The Host infiltrates Blu-ray with a solid presentation of a so-so movie. Fans of Stephenie Meyer may enjoy this sci-fi romance of humans fighting off an insidious alien invasion, but this may be slow going for more casual viewers. The Blu-ray offers great HD picture and sound, as well as a thoughtful group commentary.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Run Time: 2 Hrs. 6 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy, UltraViolet
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 07/09/2013
The Host is author Stephenie Meyer’s newest foray into mixing young romance with other genres. Where the Twilight series combined attractive young characters with the world of vampires, her new work goes into the realm of science fiction. The simple story involves an alien invasion where the aliens actually infiltrate human brains and take over the host bodies. The main character of the story, Melanie, finds herself dealing with a sympathetic alien, Wanda, co-existing with her inside her own head. For the movie adaptation, Meyer has been joined by veteran director Andrew Niccol, whose prior work includes Gattaca and In Time. This would seem to give the movie a solid pedigree at first glance. And the movie is certainly well shot and well designed. There are some remarkable images presented here, including a massive wheat field in a cave, and road scenes featuring a lovely silver Lotus sports car. And the lead performance by Saoirse Ronan as Melanie and Wanda is quite moving at times. But there’s just not much substance to speak of here. Granted, I’m not this story’s target demographic – I’m at least 20 years too old and I’m the wrong gender. That said, I can still recognize the seeds of a good story here. I just don’t think that the movie succeeds in being anything more than a very pretty curiosity.
The Production Rating: 2.5/5
SPOILERS HERE: The basic story here works on a surface level, and even has a couple of good twists that should work for Meyer fans. Melanie (Ronan) is a young resistance fighter, one of the few humans not taken over by the alien force that has possessed most of the planet. The invasion has actually been a peaceful one, with the possessed humans actually doing away with violence, hunger, poverty, etc. But humans are a stubborn lot, and our heroes in the story are the people who don’t want an alien stuck in their cerebellum. So Melanie gets cornered in the opening seconds of the movie, and after trying to jump to her death, is instead healed by the aliens and forced to undergo implantation of an alien into her brain. The alien, named Wanderer (or Wanda for short), is actually quite sympathetic to Melanie’s plight and is reluctant to completely take over Melanie’s body. Melanie, for her part, continues to struggle from within. As a result, most scenes include moments of Saoirse Ronan exchanging outer and inner dialogue as Wanda and Melanie argue over what to do at any given time. After Melanie effectively forces Wanda to leave the aliens’ facility and head out on the road, the movie begins to follow more familiar territory. Inevitably, as Melanie/Wanda arrives at the hideout of her fellow resistance members, the movie presents a few dilemmas. How will the human resistance deal with a fellow member who’s been possessed? How will Melanie’s boyfriend deal with what has happened to her? And how will Melanie deal with Wanda’s attraction to a different guy in the resistance than her boyfriend? Sadly, much of this material rests on the performances of the younger cast. And aside from Ronan, they’re all attractive but without any depth. William Hurt and Frances Fisher turn in appropriately concerned cameos as the parental figures in the group. So does Scott Lawrence in the part of a conflicted doctor whose experiments with possessed captives generate a series of ethical questions about whether the humans are behaving as badly as the aliens. And Diane Kruger presents a bit of menace as the alien relentlessly pursuing Melanie/Wanda. But again, the real focus of the movie is on the romance elements and that’s the place where the movie simply can’t deliver. There are flashes of soul here and there – most notably in a very late monologue by Ronan, played almost completely in close-up and delivered directly to the camera. It’s moments like that, along with the occasionally stunning imagery, that give the movie some promise. It’s just too bad that the whole doesn’t have more parts like that to recommend it.
The Host has been released a little less than 2 weeks ago, simultaneously on Blu-ray and standard definition. The Blu-ray has everything from the standard DVD, and adds high definition picture and sound along with some additional extras. The Blu-ray packaging includes the DVD release on a second disc within the plastic case.
The Host is presented in a 1080p AVC 2.40:1 transfer at an average 34 mbps that provides great detail on a variety of levels. The regular use of CGI, particularly to enhance the otherworldly blue pupils in possessed humans’ eyes, is dynamic but not in such a way that it looks painted over the actors or locations. There’s a wide variety of colors of fabrics, vehicles and of flesh tones throughout the movie. The transfer really shows up the contrast between the antiseptic silver/white world of the aliens and the warm gold and brown earth tones of the human resistance in the caves.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
The Host is presented in an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix (averaging 3.7 mbps but getting up to 5.2 in the bigger scenes) that provides a fair amount of atmospheric sound for the various environments, and a satisfying level of oomph for the bigger action beats. The closing credits are graced with a solid sonic presentation of Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive”.
Audio Rating: 4.5/5
The Blu-ray presentation of The Host comes with several extra features, including a group commentary, a few brief deleted scenes, a bit of internet viral promotion, and a short featurette, all in high definition. The packaging also includes the DVD release, which includes all the same extras, presented in standard definition. A digital copy is available online via pocket BLU or via a code included in the packaging.
Special Features Rating: 2.5/5
Commentary with Andrew Niccol, Nick Wechsler and Stephenie Meyer (AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – This is actually a pretty thoughtful group commentary from writer/director Niccol, producer Wechsler and author Meyer. The three watch the movie together and offer observations on everything from the way the cast worked together to the daily production issues. The group describes the closing scene of the movie as an addition created several months after the rest of the movie had been finished and cut together. It’s clear from the close of the commentary that the group was thinking of this movie as the beginning of a new cinematic series for Meyer. I’m not sure that such an event is going to happen from this property.
Deleted Scenes (1080p, 2:39 Total) (AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – This is a collection of four very brief deleted scenes, three of which come from Melanie/Wanda’s trek to the hideout and the fourth of which comes from a very late moment in the movie. None of the material is essential, obviously.
Bringing The Host to Life (1080p, 7:42) (AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – Here’s the usual making-of featurette, loaded with the standard quick interview soundbites with the cast and creative staff and all the mutual compliments you can imagine, alongside the usual on-set video and assorted clips from the movie. Saoirse Ronan discusses performing as many of her own stunts as possible, and she’s backed up by on-set video of her exploits.
Seeker PSA (1080p, 1:16) (AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – Not listed on the packaging, this is a very short promo for the movie, using a few quick clips from the movie to promote the advantages of having aliens implanted in your brain. This appears to be a viral internet promo.
My Scenes – The usual Blu-ray bookmarking feature is available here, allowing the viewer to set their own bookmarks throughout the film.
BD-Live – At the time of review, I was unable to activate any BD-Live functionality and I could not find a link to it in the main menu.
DVD Copy – A second disc is included in the package, holding the standard DVD of the movie. It contains the movie presented in standard definition in an anamorphic 2.40:1 picture with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound in English (@448 kbps). The special features from the Blu-ray are all included, albeit in SD.
Digital Copy – Instructions are included in the packaging for obtaining a digital or Ultraviolet copy of the movie for your your laptop or portable device.
Subtitles are available for the film and the special features, in English, Spanish and French. A full chapter menu is available for the film.
The Host is a bit of a head-scratcher. There’s the germ of a good idea in this hybrid of romance and science fiction. There are some truly lovely images to see here. But there’s just so little depth to the project that it only works at intermittent times. Saoirse Ronan is as good as ever, but the rest of the younger cast around her provide very little behind the eyes. Stephenie Meyer fans may wish to rent this, as may fans of the filmography of Andrew Niccol. And I should add that younger female viewers will likely enjoy this film more than I did.
Overall Rating: 2.5/5
Reviewed By: Kevin EK
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