The Host & Oblivion

While I’m at it, thought I’d write up my thoughts on two more films I managed to catch up on recently, both from my favourite genre – science-fiction.

The Host

The first was a movie I was really keen to see simply because the trailers and pre-movie publicity indicated that there would be a fleet of chromed Lotus Evora sportcars looking really slick.

The Host did indeed feature the sexy sportsters and there was certainly a little bit of tyre-squealing action, and just for that I might have forgiven the entire movie, but nah.

Frankly it sucked, big time. It’s one of those sickening, badly-formed, teen love-lorn stories where the ‘love’ is more akin to a sickly crush than true devotion, and the whole thing is forced upon an wannabe epic landscape of a conquered Earth.

The movie feels cheaply made, mostly set in crisp glass-fronted buildings and a nice big cave with spacious individual rooms for each of the protagonists and probably on-suite facilities just off-screen. Not exactly roughing it, the rebels in this film.

Now I must give it credit for not easily adopting the stereotype alien-meets-predator pseudo-animalistic life-forms that just want to kill us all, eat our flesh and drink Bloodwine from our skulls. The aliens in this movie don’t growl, dribble acid, blow everything up or stink to high-heaven.

In fact they are positively enchanting as they are floaty foamy spidery-legged dandelion-like beings smaller than your fist and seemingly made of pure energy. Held within your palms you could simply snuff out these ‘souls’ by closing your fist.

It’s a wonder how they managed to take over our planet in the first place, particularly as they seem to have a fundamental issue – they are symbionts. They need a body to inhabit and live in. Hence ‘The Host’. Unfortunately the side-effect of that is that it eradicates the mind previously in that body.

So what humans are left (apart from the renegades of course) are now inhabited by aliens. But let’s face it, it’s not so bad. Human-beings2.0 are all polite, courteous, never lie, and are non-violent. Plus the cities are clean, efficient and well run, you don’t have to pay for anything at the giant superstores, plus everyone dresses really snazzy and drives cool cars – well most do – they also wear cool contact lenses.

Hey – this conquering malarkey might have worked out alright for the human race, actually.

But the problem arises when an existing consciousness manages to stay put and fights back against the alien. This should manifest itself in dramatic internal human conflict that we can heart-wrenchingly relate too, but that would require good writing and, more importantly, good acting. Instead it’s unintentionally comedic and farcical.

Sadly the rest of the movie isn’t even that, it’s just dull and relies too heavily on an uncharismatic main cast, plus one William Hurt (who simply looks like he got the short straw and was bound to this production by some evil compulsion) and whose character makes the most illogical, contradictory and potentially catastrophic decisions you could imagine – although of course he doesn’t because he’s the wise old dude in the movie that the teens somehow all look up too.

The story defies common-sense. The aliens appear largely pacifist and somewhat fragile, and one imagines resourceful humans would easily take back the planet after the shock of the first invasion wave.

Not only are these off-planet types the non-threatening kind, but they appear too sophisticated, intelligent and benevolent to engage in ethnic-cleansing. And if it’s just a body they need to inhabit, well there are two million apes alone on this planet that they could possess – I’m sure we would have cut a deal in return for the advance technology they apparently possess that even cleaned up our environmental concerns. The premise doesn’t work.

Even if you’re a sci-fi fan, I recommend you don’t waste any time with this movie, even when it comes out on DVD. And if it’s on the telly, there has to be nothing else on, a shamal raging outside, internet blackout and even the most banal books on your shelves would have to be thoroughly ravaged by termites before you resort to viewing this.

Oblivion

I’d rather end up in Oblivion than subject myself to this again. Talking of which, that one is actually a good sci-fi film and a proper epic.

Once again there’s nothing original here, or course, and in some ways the two movies mirror each other. Conquered-Earth, Alien invasion, rebel band of remaining humans and a love story that’s core to the central plot of the story.

The premise is of an apparently regular maintenance worker that is elevated to a Neo-like status and discovers that the picture of reality that he has known is no more real than the Matrix. End of world clichés avalanche your senses with hints of everything from Planet of the Apes to The Day After Tomorrow, but then again originality is a rare treasure – a bit like old books, baseball caps, Raybans and memorabilia have become on the charred remnants of planet America (as it always is in future-flicks).

It features Tom Cruise, but it’s not really a Tom Cruise-specific movie, although there is a LOT of him in it, more than you can imagine in fact, which would certainly have appealed to his ego.

The love story is mature, relevant, subtle and but epochal, and the rag-tag rebels are believable, if stereotypical, dirty mess. The wise old dude this time is Morgan Freeman, and his decisions too are contradictory and risky, but you just know that he’s right, because Morgan Freeman is always right.

And whilst most of the movies landscape is CGI, it’s still gorgeous to look at, with stunning apocalyptic vistas juxtaposed with natural thriving beauty, punctuated with iHome modernity, plus of course Cruise’s ride – as much a star of the film as he is.

The ‘Bubbleship’ is designed by the brilliant conceptual designer and illustrator, Daniel Simon, who specialises in futuristic transportation – check out his incredible book, ‘Cosmic Motors’. On that note, too many sci-fi flicks go to a heap of effort on set design and makeup, only to skimp out on future cars or transport – witness the terrible Taxis from the original Total Recall. The Bubbleship in Oblivion however, is beautiful and elegant and every detail has been thought out by Simon.

Back to the movie though, and there’s action, there’s drama, and yes there’s an explosion or two, but it’s a more thoughtful, more contemplative story, that draws you in, lulls you into suspension of logic and then shakes you back to your senses with its twist (I saw it coming I might brag) that restores hope, and humanity.

Sadly it’s already out of the cinema I believe, but it’s well worth your time when it comes out on DVD. I will be watching this again first opportunity I get.

Oh and I also really still want to drive a Lotus Evora, despite that other movie.

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