In a post Harry Potter world, in a post Twilight universe, there’s no denying the power the Young Adult (YA) novel has had on modern moviemaking. They command huge box office and attract a frenzied fan base that has seen studios rushing any semi-decent selling YA series into pre-production. The potential for a safe franchise has led them to rival comic book movies in recent years as the go-to tent pole film. In a five part series we take a look at several YA properties heading for the big screen and consider their prospects. This is Adaptation Fixation – YA Edition.
WTF is it?
That ‘other’ thing Stephenie Meyer wrote besides the sparkly celibacy metaphor to end them all, The Twilight Saga. It doesn’t span four books and one novella and there’s not a vegetarian vampire in sight. Phew. The Host sits comfortably within the science fiction genre and – like The Hunger Games – is one of a handful of dystopian YA best-sellers to land a movie deal. It boasts the privilege of being considerably less shit than the Twilight series of books. It also lacks the magic underwear, which is to say it’s considerably less Mormon than The Twilight Saga. There’s no above-the-jeans petting here.
Still a lot of white people though.
In the not too distant future the world has been taken over by parasitic aliens that invade and then control their human hosts. Think Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The silver, almost ethereal beings are invisible to the outside except for a metallic ring present in the infected human’s iris.
Melanie Stryder, 21, is part of the human resistance along with her little brother and boyfriend Jared, who they met on the run years earlier (told in flashbacks in the book and presumably movie). Trapped by the aliens – called Souls – on a mission, Melaine throws herself down an elevator shaft as she’d rather die than become infected. She doesn’t die, however. Instead she’s implanted with an alien known as Wanderer.
But Melanie isn’t as gone as the Souls would hope and an internal battle between Melanie and Wanderer begins, with eventually the two beings deciding to unite so the human can return to her true love and lil’ bro. Naturally when the infected version of somebody that they used to know (cue Gotye) shows up at camp Le Restiance` the humans think it’s a trap. They soon realise that something unusual is happening: both Melanie and Wanderer are independently alive within the same body. This causes a problem because Melanie is in love with Jared who’s excited to have his girlfriend back, but Wanderer is falling for this other guy named Ian, which is an issue because she’s in Melanie’s body and…yeah. Tension. Add to that villains out to exterminate the last humans led by Terra The Seeker (no relation to Terra Nova).
I know. Believe me, I know. A critically acclaimed, Oscar-nominated writer/director like Andrew Niccol isn’t the person you would expect to jump at the opportunity to adapt a Stephenie Meyer property. So this could be a very good thing for the project. The New Zealand filmmaker originally became interested after hearing Meyer’s favourite sci-fi film was his debut Gattaca. There’s plenty here that would appeal to Niccol’s sci-fi tendencies and lavish visual style. Look, In Time might have been a great concept imperfectly executed, but besides that his track record is impeccably good. So…The Host. Andrew Niccol. Give it a go.
One of the most talented young actors working today, Ronan is consistently brilliant and unsettlingly accomplished when you consider she’s just 18. At 18 I could barely chew on my own let only craft a career like a young Meryl Streep. She, like Niccol, has made nothing but good choices so far and she certainly has the ability to portray two characters within the one body. Having never showed interest in any stereotypical ‘teen’ properties, Ronan clearly sees something in the story and its telling that has got her excited, which makes me excited, which should make you excited. Consensus: excitement.
Jeremy Irons’ very good-looking son Max is portraying love interest numero uno: Jared. And yeah, he’s pretty. Like, have you seen that bone structure? Or his high-end fashion shoot? Or that time he was going out with Emily Browning? Cutest couple. As for his acting…well, he was in Red Riding Hood playing another corner of another ‘YA’ love triangle. And that’s all we’ll say about that. He’s pretty.
Meet Ian, played in The Host by Jake Abel who’s not quite good-looking enough to be leading man material but no quite ugly enough to have Steve Buscemi character actor qualities. He’s treading the Kyle Gallner middle ground. Not the first time he’s worked with Ronan after The Lovely Bones, Abel is best known for playing the jock in YA adaptation I Am Number Four. He also played someone called Luke in the Percy Jackson movie, but I don’t know who that is as I was too distracted by the kid with goat’s feet. GOAT’S FEET FOR CHRIST SAKE!
The greatest thing Joshua Jackson ever did was pull Diane Kruger, can we get that out of the way now? Fringe is a close second. Anyway, the fashion ‘It Girl’ is Terra The Seeker which – if the trailer is anything to go by – seems to involve a lot of white linen and intense staring. This character isn’t one that has a lot of lines or a lot of depth. She’s plain bad, so expect a National Treasure level of commitment from Kruger here.
The Oscar winner brings some experience to the cast. And a gold gong.
Why it could work
Namely because it’s a lot more creative than The Twilight Saga. Sure, aliens that use human bodies as vessels isn’t exactly a new concept, but the internal battle between the alien and its host is very interesting. Even the love triangle – a Stephenie Meyer staple – is made more intriguing by it actually being between four people with three bodies.
Plus, I keep going back to Niccol and Ronan’s involvement. I trust these talented people. They seem to know their stuff. If they’re onboard it’s hard not to be onboard too.
Why it could fail
Stephanie Meyer’s version of the future is a white wash, much like Twilight (excluding the ethnic temptation werewolf). It’s entirely white people being all white and whingey. She doesn’t even bother with brunettes this time: the leading love triangle are blonde and Caucasian. Even the bad guys are blonde and Caucasian, except they wear silver so you know they’re evil and futuristic. To be fair though, the physical appearances are more varied in the book and the Aryan ensemble seems to have more to do with casting than Meyer herself.
The other major issue is the inner monologue, which you know is going to run throughout the whole film. It has to. How else do you depict two souls within the same body? It’s one thing to do that in a first person novel, but on film? Bella Swan’s unnecessary narration was one of the killing points in The Twilight Saga, lets hope they’ve learnt how to do it in a way that’s less vanilla.
What we hope they include
The alien death room (or at least that’s what I’m calling it). There’s a scene in the book where Melanie stumbles into a medical lab at the human resistance base and Wanderer inside of her is horrified. Why? Because the room was used as a place to experiment with the removal of aliens from within infected humans. Silver ‘blood’ is splattered all over the room along with alien corpses in jars etc, which could be an awesome and creepily effective scene if it’s done right. If it’s done wrong it could just look like a bunch of glowsticks have snapped.
Not good. From the drawn out line delivery to kissing in the rain, the trailer looks like The Host is focusing heavily on the love component and less on the sci-fi elements. Saoirse Ronan is the shit, but it’s unlikely even her considerable talents can save this.
Maria Lewis - follow Maria on Twitter here: @moviemazz
Release date: March 29, 2013