Sometimes, reputations in entertainment--and the film industry especially--are undeserved. I know you almost totally by reputation, and outside of some very specific and enthusiastic audiences, it sure isn't good. So it was hard to go into The Host with an open mind. Was it all just bad press? What was I going into? Imagine how surprised I was that the movie was not what I'd been led to believe. Clearly someone was missing something. I hope it wasn't me.
Imagine my surprise at the casting of Saoirse Ronan, who I loved in Hanna, _as the mysterious young girl at the heart of a deeper mystery. You write a story that a lot of young girls would enjoy toying with. Dark forces are afoot, and she is involuntarily thrust into the middle of a conflict that has been waged for millennia. She risks the ostracism of society, family, and friends, as she struggles to find her own path. Highlighting the conflict both in the wider world and inside her own soul are two young men. Played by Max Irons and the Jake Abel (two actors who should never have to adopt an inevitably lesser but more plausible moniker for a movie role -- see also Brad Pitt and The Rock) , they prod and pressure Ronan's Melanie to choose a love and a lifestyle. Behind the scenes, the awesometown Diane Kruger (who I remember last from _Inglourious Basterds) pursues Melanie with malevolent intensity, trying to just _ruin everything. _The ending is triumphant but open-ended, surely to serve as a strong beginning to the franchise.
It's hard to explain how the rumors and scuttlebutt had left me ill-prepared me for this movie. The story descriptions were dead-on, maybe even familiar, but all these weird missing details make me think people just weren't paying attention. Ronan is a capable and charming actress, and nothing like the stoned sleepwalker that I was warned about. In fact, she even has red, not brunette hair. The two men she has to choose between weren't as hunky as I expected, but again maybe that's because I am not the target demographic.
The vampire and werewolf angle, which got a lot of publicity in the news (obviously bandwagoning True Blood) is almost completely nonexistent in the movie itself. There is a bit about age-old evil beings and having to choose sides, but it's all done in a very subtle and sci-fi way, which was interesting. The 'shimmering' that was joked about so much was really just Andrew Niccol's capable direction, which at least made for a visually interesting film. That's good, because it was a bit slow, and there wasn't as much action as I normally expect from a monster movie.
Somewhere in here is a key to overturning expectations, or outright ignorance, and whatever it is, Steph, I hope it keeps up.