Saturday, October 24, 2015

Movie Analysis: The Host

The Host was the 2013 movie based on a Stephanie Meyer novel about Melanie, a tenacious young woman whose body has been taken over by an alien named Wanderer, but who will not give up on reuniting with loved ones who are resisting this conquest of our world. 

Just as my analysis of Inception showed its characters were based on familiar ones, so this will show that The Host is essentially:

Teenage kissing meets The Wizard of Oz

Since this is an analysis and not a review, it is composed entirely of SPOILERS.

The Host’s main characters correspond to the ones in The Wizard of Oz (for both, I’m referring to the movie versions), though the stories are very different—Melanie wants to find the remaining members of the human race, especially those she loves, while Dorothy is trying to go home. However, the plots have striking similarities.

The Host begins with Melanie fleeing the alien Seeker. We find out through flashbacks that she was doing this to protect her little brother, Jamie. Melanie has a huge, terrifying fall. This establishes Melanie as a Dorothy figure, with the Seeker as the evil teacher/wicked witch, and Jamie as Toto. It is true that Dorothy is plucked up by a tornado, but then she falls down quite a ways.

A Healer (played by a black actor) coaxes Wanderer into Melanie’s body. Just remember this when we get farther along.

Along the way, Wanderer/Melanie picks up companions. They are in reverse order from The Wizard of Oz, but they correspond just fine. In flashbacks we see Jared, an emotionally impulsive young man. Melanie hits him the face when they meet. This establishes Jared as a Cowardly Lion figure, but a lion who has already found his courage. He will continue to be emotionally impulsive throughout the story.

Next, Wanderer/Melanie meets Jeb, who almost constantly has his rifle on him and uses it to protect Wanderer/Melanie. He is a Tin Man figure who has already found his heart, and he is compassionate towards her from start to finish.

And Wanderer/Melanie meets Ian, a more thoughtful young man. He is obviously a scarecrow figure who has already found his brain. He is able to think things through about the nature of Wanderer.

An interesting plot point is just after Wanderer/Melanie encounters the seemingly impossible wheat field, the Seeker almost spots them from a helicopter. This is kind of like how Dorothy encounters the talking apple trees, and the wicked witch then attacks with fire.

From here on the plots diverge widely, since they really are two different stories. But they converge interestingly enough when Wanderer/Melanie goes to the city and gains a great talisman—a silver pod that the aliens can live in. This corresponds to Dorothy gaining the wicked witch’s broom. And Wanderer/Melanie gets rid of the Seeker in a surprising way—by coaxing the Seeker into the pod, just as Dorothy gets rid of the wicked witch by the surprising use of water.

But Wanderer cannot or will not leave in the same way, just as Dorothy misses out on a balloon ride. The good witch tells Dorothy the secret to going home is in the ruby slippers she gave Dorothy at the start. Even so, Doc (who is played by a black actor—remember the Healer described above) secretly gives Wanderer and Melanie a happy ending by coaxing Wanderer into a different young woman’s body.

Is this analysis overly-speculative? I say no. What clued me in was the scene towards the end of The Host, when Wanderer contemplates dying. She tells Ian, “I’ll miss you the most.” I thought, “What? That guy is a scarecrow figure?” This was the movie giving a wink and a nod to the audience. From there it was a matter of backtracking to see who corresponded to what.

Even if you think I’m stretching things a bit, this is an interesting way to have the bare bones of a story to start, and then filling in from there. What’s needed is an astounding scene in the middle of the story. In The Wizard of Oz, it was the revealing of the great and powerful wizard, with plenty of smoke and fire, and the lion doing a pratfall after that. In The Host, it was Ian and Jared taking turns kissing Wanderer/Melanie, to figure out if Melanie was in there. Reportedly, this was when teenage girls in movie theaters went wild. And Melanie shows shes there by biting Jared on the lip. So find a corresponding scene that will be a big hit with your audience.

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