I recall in an environmental ethics class I once took, we were asked to break into small groups and come up with viable arguments in favor of a number of different propositions weighing human imperatives against the needs of the earth at large.
Essentially, do humans’ secondary needs presume equal footing with the primary needs of life forms we’ve deemed somehow inferior?
Based on the responses the class provided, and beyond some obligatory lip service to the voices of the trees and the colors of the wind, it seemed pretty clear many humans would argue that, sure, humans are the gatekeepers of life on earth, so it is our privilege to do what we deem necessary to adapt the environment to fit our needs.
The Host, a new film directed by Andrew Niccol (Gattaca, In Time) from a for-now standalone book by Twilight author Stephenie Meyer, posits many of the same questions, only presuming there is a loftier life form that has arrived from somewhere extra-terrestrial. Like pod people from Invasion of the Body Snatchers, only a lot more benign, the beings call themselves “Souls,” and they implant themselves into the back of humans’ necks, thereafter taking control of our bodies.
They insist they intend only to prevent humankind from destroying itself and Planet Home, and to be quite honest, their argument is pretty damned compelling. But a small, scattered group of rebels persist in banding together, hiding out and fighting the takeover, to preserve the human race in all its folly. (Who wouldn’t, really?)
This being a Stephenie Meyer joint, the action centers around a young girl, the rebel Melanie (Saoirse Ronan) who is sharing her body against her will with a Soul called Wanderer, or Wanda for short. Melanie/Wanda stands caught between two competing hunks — Melanie’s militant boyfriend Jared and another member of their hidey commune, the sensitive Ian, who seems to be developing feelings for Wanda.
I had the chance to speak with the actors playing Jared and Ian — Max Irons (Jeremy’s son) and Jake Abel — while they were in town to premiere the movie a few weeks back. Here are some excerpts from our conversation.
WCCO: There are no doubt a lot of eyes on this because it is a follow up to Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series. Did you have any preconceived notions about what this project would be like?
Jake Abel: It’s inevitable. You’re not going to escape it. We’ve talked about this before. Anymore, if you’re a young person in a movie that has somewhat of a big concept, you’re going to be compared to Twilight, regardless of the Stephenie Meyer (connection).
Max Irons: There was an article in the New York Times Magazine, or something, entitled “Which of These Films is the Next Twilight?” It had about 12 movies — Hunger Games, Beautiful Creatures, The Host was there …
Abel: Zero Dark Thirty. (Laughs)
Irons: The common denominator tends to be a young cast, and that’s pretty much it. I think the question is more about whether this film will achieve the same phenomenon that Twilight did, not actually if it’s the same movie.
Abel: There are benefits to having a potential built-in audience that way, with those who are loyal to (Meyer). There’s also a sort of pigeonholing. You have a lot of guys who see this as just the same thing as before, and I think what they’ll be surprised to hear is that it’s a sci-fi film. Yes there’s all these elements that speak to that female crowd, but there’s just as big of a sci-fi edge to it that’s not done in a cheesy way.
WCCO: It’s definitely more a sci-fi film than Twilight is a horror movie.
Irons: But even though the film is true to the book, I think the book was more romance-focused than our film is. I think Andrew Niccol has built it so that it’s sort of demographically neutral.
WCCO: What was it like working with Andrew Niccol? He has a very individualized style of doing sci-fi.
Irons: He was just totally in control. He knew exactly where he wanted the finest, finest details. There was one day we were shooting a scene with about eight actors. You here “Action,” and then “Cut!” He runs onto the set and he literally did [moves fork on table a few inches to the left] that. Every single detail of this world.
Abel: It pays off in the end when you see it. The scope of this set design, the color schemes that transition between “Soul” world and the human cave world. It’s so distinct in representation. I mean, it’s the silver of one versus the brown of the other, but it’s so detail-oriented. You feel as though your captain is going to lead you and you’re not going to drown in the water.
WCCO: Going back to Twilight for a second, this movie doesn’t have a love triangle so much as a “love parallelogram.” How was it navigating that angle of three people with four souls?
Irons: I think it was difficult for Saoirse, fairly straightforward for us. Our intentions were very clear. I wanted Melanie back.
Abel: And I didn’t know the human version of her like he did. I only knew this alien version. Once I started to come around and see that maybe she’s not all those things we think she is … Saoirse is the one who had to have scenes with herself with the voice in her head she prerecorded. In the film, she has a beautiful scene that’s just her, and they did in one take. And at the end of the take, they were like “That’s the one.” Stephenie was crying. Not many young actresses can pull off what she did.
WCCO: An Academy Award nominee for a reason.
Abel: Before she could even drive a car.