I've recently seen the movie - The Host. It's based on the book by Stephenie Meyer. I've mentioned previously that I was both looking forward to seeing the movie and dreading it. We all know that the movie version of a decent book loses a lot in the transmogrification from word to image. The translating can be good or bad, the necessary alterations might even change the tale. Some attempts are best forgotten.
What's interesting in this, is first, seeing a trailer for the movie, I thought it would be decent. I like the young actress chosen to play Melanie/Wanderer, Saoirse Ronan. Then seeing the second trailer I realized they'd needed to add some action and drama and… it didn't sit well with my impression. Of course it only added to my mixed feelings approaching a viewing.
I almost skipped it.
I'm glad I saw it in a theater.
I liked it. I like the book more, but the movie did a decent job and told the story.
There is no way to know how I'd think of the movie if I hadn't read the book first. It's not possible to forget the book to let the move stand separately. So, I can't know if so many people are so critical of the movie because they didn't read the book, or they all wanted something on the Twilight level. A lot of people get turned off as soon as the idea of Science Fiction comes up, alien invaders and what-all. And of course if you have Science Fiction you need a lot of action and explosions or shoot-ups or something rather than just a story.
Going back to the book, it is a story. The development of a character like Melanie isn't a cookie cutter process, given the conditions she must live in and deal with. Our empathy for Melanie is something that needed to be developed. We had to watch her grow into the character. Then we had to learn of Wanderer. We had to watch their struggle, their friction and then their cooperation. Stephenie did a great job of it in the book, it still took a lot of words, but it worked.
In the movie you can't explain every little nuance of characterization, you had to watch it unfold. Saoirse Ronan did an excellent job with the dual nature of herself. The abbreviated story lines, from book to movie, are the elements of difficulty… again. Each point in the book is developed with well-crafted verbiage, each trial, each footstep on whatever path is deliberate.
The movie holds the same deliberation but the brevity thwarts the needed compassion that carries the audience into the story. For example - the imprisonment of Wanderer (It) in the cell-like cave - in the book it's a trial, she's cramped for space, in a little cubby hole where she can't stand upright, can't stretch out, can't lie comfortably. The psychological torture that she goes through is painful. The struggle with Jared hating her while she loves him, both of her, and what that does to her. All of it (in the book) unfolds through days she can't count in the dark. (with no exchange of words with her brother). Of course in the movie you need to show something so it's lit (rather than pitch dark). And you need a faster progression.
When they first deal with Wanderer (in the book) they treat her with contempt, keeping her in the tiny, tiny cell. Then they learn of her. As she tells about herself, tells of her different lives on other planets, most of them learn compassion for her, or at least acceptance. So when they later capture the Seeker (Diane Kruger) they automatically treat her with more compassion, even though she's nastily and tedeously tenacious (in the book), putting her in a larger cell. Wanda/Melanie's reaction to that juxtaposition (even though she taught them) is telling and nicely told.
I don't know.
I can't decide.
Since I read the book a number of times I couldn't not know what was going on in the movie.
Okay… decision time… YES. Reading the book, liking it, makes a difference in enjoying the movie. I did enjoy it. I loved how they had Saoirse play her role. The 'voice' of Melanie was nicely done.
The FX of the Soul, when put into Melanie, was better than when they took the Seeker out of Lucy (the Seeker's human host). Making it into a luminous FX creature… awww… I don't know. I would've preferred a silvery look with a little bit of luminosity, but that's just me, I had an image left over from the book, my imagination.
Thinking through the movie there are so many parts where the brevity lessens or negates the emotional impact that I would recommend reading the book AFTER seeing the movie, if you didn't before. One reason, of course, is that you now have character images to use while reading, even though Diane Kruger doesn't match the Seeker character (from what I remember). I refuse to open the book to test myself. The last time I did that I wound up reading the entire book again.
So, read the book. See the movie.
If you saw the movie and didn't really like it, read the book, I think it will make you appreciate the story all the more.
Or, maybe, see the movie and then read the book.
I can't try that.
Aaargh, there's just so much, every time I flash to an image of the movie, I'm caught thinking of how the book told more about it, more depth, more emotion… It's one thing that Stephenie captures… emotions. She does it by making characters to care for.
Crap… I'm going to have to read that book again… I feel it coming on…
Hopefully I'll get back to my main topic in my next blog, which (I hope) won't be so freaking long in coming.