Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Twilight author Stephenie Meyer lagged behind Thursday’s after the Hall H presentation for Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 at Comic-Con International, surprising fans with footage from her next film The Host.
“This will be the first that anyone has seen of this,” Meyer said before welcoming director Andrew Niccol onto the stage. The visionary behind Gattica and, most recently, In Time kept his comments short and sweet, saying, “It feels like we started shooting about a week ago, but the movie doesn’t come out until next March. We want to give you a sneak peek, even though it’s far from done. And so these are some rough scenes that we put together, just to give you an idea of the world of The Host.”
Set in a future where aliens (called “Souls”) parasitically inhabit human bodies, The Host stars Saiorse Ronan as a Melanie Stryder, a rebellious “free human” who inexplicably remains semi-conscious after her host Wanderer invades her, igniting an unlikely relationship between the two. The footage shown proved somewhat out of context for anyone unfamiliar with the source material (Meyer’s 2008 novel of the same name – her first after the Twilight series). Niccol’s style is quite apparent: The footage has a very similar look to the world of In Time, featuring futuristic vehicles and car chases, a juxtaposition between settings of harsh elemental bleakness and slick modernity and hyper-colorful flashbacks cut between washed-out scenes in the present.
The footage opens with Ronan running up a set of stairs while pursued by Diane Kruger, who plays The Seeker, an alien leading an investigation into the world of free humans, and using Wanderer to do so. Ronan, who based on the footage play both Stryder and Wanderer, jumps out a window and lands on the ground, apparently dead. It’s unclear from the context if this character is Wanderer or Stryder, but we then see Wanderer wake up on a stainless-steel table in a sparse room. Her eyes are blue with a lighter blue ring around the pupil, apparently signifying that she’s hosting/being hosted. She says, “Call me Wanderer.”
At The Seeker’s urging, Wanderer relays information about Stryder: We see flashbacks of Stryder’s life in Louisiana, riding a skateboard pulled by bulldog and playfully splashing in a lake with her little brother. While the two are in the water, a group of (presumably) aliens pulls up in cars that look as though they’re plated in stainless steel – all smooth, round curves and reflective metal — and we’re told that Stryder’s father would rather die than be taken, transitioning to a shot of him holding a gun. A voiceover tells us that Stryder and her brother were constantly on the run after being orphaned, until a Wanderer-narrated flashback shows Stryder and her brother with a boy (Jared Howe, played by Max Irons) in a field. The trio is caught in a rainstorm, and Stryder’s brother runs into a trailer while she and the boy kiss in the rain.
This turning point is also a moment we see Wanderer pause while relaying the information to The Seeker, and we hear Stryder’s voice in her head urging Wanderer not to reveal her brother’s name. Wanderer is momentarily fazed, but speaks “Jamie” anyway – much to Stryder’s chagrin. Apparently, falling in love leads to unsavory consequences, as we’re next treated to footage of Stryder being led blindfolded through a desert by a troop of grizzled-looking men, led by Melanie’s uncle Jeb Stryder (William Hurt) with Jared in tow. The group seeks shelter in a cave, and Stryder’s face is shown with burns on it (presumably from the harsh sun and elements). When a group of men shows up looking for her, Jared attempts to fight them off, but Stryder appears, telling them she’s who they’re looking for. Jared holds her back and the groups scuffle until Jeb emerges from outside, and breaks it up by shooting a gun.
The final sequence among the footage reel involved a car chase with two men in a truck, pursued by the same stainless steel-covered futuristic sports cars (as well as a similarly-fashioned helicopter). We also see Jared and the boy he fought in the cave wearing sunglasses and helming a separate truck, observing. After a brief chase, the two men in the truck are cornered – the scene ends when the driver barrels toward a cement wall, clearly willing to die rather than be taken (or hosted, the intent is unclear out of context).
Fans of the book audibly enjoyed what they saw, but the footage proved polarizing, leaving those unfamiliar with the source material in the dark. It seems like Open Road Films has a big task ahead of it in marketing the material with some semblance of mystery while dually educating folks new to the concept.
The Host opens March 29, 2013.