March 29, 2013

Humanity challenged in ‘The Host’

Posted in Between Us column, Books, Entertainment, Movies, Spirituality at 3:57 am by dinaheng

If aliens took control of our human bodies — eliminating disease, cleaning up the environment, and ending war — would that be a bad thing?

In “The Host,” a film based on “Twilight” author Stephenie Meyer’s best-selling novel of the same name, extraterrestrials have taken over the Earth, and are searching for a pocket of human resistors who continue to elude capture.Dinah Eng

When Melanie Stryder (played by Saoirse Ronan) is separated from her boyfriend Jared (Max Irons) and younger brother Jamie (Chandler Canterbury), she is forced to become the host for Wanderer, an alien life form that struggles to understand its new human feelings and experiences.

Escaping from her Seeker captor (Diane Kruger), Melanie/Wanderer takes refuge with the resistance group led by Melanie’s Uncle Jed (William Hurt). Melanie’s return is met with suspicion, forcing her and the alien spirit inside her body to work together in order to keep the humans safe. When Wanderer falls in love with Ian (Jake Abel), one of the resistors, things get complicated.

“The movie’s about a greater love,” says Andrew Niccol, director and screenwriter of the film, out in theaters this Friday, March 29. “Can we co-exist with a species from another planet? Can we co-exist with other species on our planet? The universe is a very big place, and for us to assume we’re the only species is very arrogant.”

Niccol, who also penned “The Truman Show” and “Gattaca,” was intrigued by the idea that the alien life forms in Meyer’s story might be better for the world than people are, and that the “Souls” who come to Earth might be more humane than humans.

Casting Saoirse Ronan for the dual role of Melanie/Wanderer, he says, was easy. “She’s one of the most truthful actors of any age,” Niccol says. “I’d been watching her since she made ‘Atonement,’ and I knew from the movie ‘Hanna’ that she could do anything.”

Ronan was 13 when she earned an Oscar nomination for her performance in Joe Wright’s “Atonement,” and played the title role of “Hanna” in 2011, playing a teenage girl trained from birth to be an assassin.

Ronan, 17 when “The Host” began filming, says she likes how feisty and human her character is, not surprising since Ronan’s first name Saoirse (pronounced Sursha) means freedom in Gaelic.

“Melanie never backs down, and the only reason she lets Wanderer take over her body is because she knows it’s best for her family,” Ronan says. “I preferred playing Melanie, maybe because I played Wanderer more than Melanie in the film. The challenge with playing Wanderer is that she’s not human. She didn’t have natural human reactions to things.”

Having a natural Irish accent meant Ronan had to learn the American Louisiana accent for the role of Melanie, while speaking in a more generic American dialect for the role of Wanderer. Melanie’s walk was decisive, while Wanderer almost floated in her movements, Ronan adds.

“Wanderer’s very composed and calm,” Ronan notes. “Melanie’s very impatient, and everything’s a rush or a threat for her. She doesn’t have as much time for people as Wanderer does.”

Does Ronan believe that extraterrestrials exist?

“I’m sure it’s not just us,” she says. “We humans could be somewhere else, too.”

Now that would give new meaning to the phrase “alien life forms.”

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