The Host – Movie Review

In The Host, earth has been invaded by an alien race.  It’s not the scary, man-eating kind of aliens that you might first think of though.  This is a small, ethereal ball of white fuzz, reminiscent of a dandelion in some ways, that takes up residence in a human body.  The remaining humans have assumed that when an alien takes a host, the host dies, but when a host, Melanie, stays very much alive and convinces her invader, Wanderer, to help her fulfill a promise to return to her little brother, Jamie, the humans are faced with the reality that many humans are actually imprisoned, but still alive, inside their bodies.

Mel and Wanderer struggle to work out their new relationship—two minds and spirits sharing one body.  Eventually, Wanderer (her name gets shortened to Wanda later in the film) begins to realize that even though they may be a more peaceful race (and an arguably superior race), forcing themselves on another race (even one that is significantly flawed and less advanced) is wrong.  Over time, Wanda and Mel grow to truly love each other and because of that love, Wanda gives up her “right” to Mel’s body, sacrifices her heart and her desires so that Mel can have her life back.

Wanda also teaches the humans how they can help set other humans free from their invading souls—something the humans had been trying to do for some time, but it always ended in the death of both the souls (human and alien) in the end.  The key difference between what they were doing and what Wanda taught them was kindness.  The humans always tried to force the soul out of the body, when it simply needed to be asked nicely.

Science fiction allows us to see things in such a unique perspective.  It takes us out of our biases, out of the world as we know it, and puts us in a strange, foreign setting—one that keeps us a little off balance.  It’s that being off balance a little that allows us to see things more clearly sometimes, and allows truths to sneak up on us.  The Host provides a lot of room for discussion, and I won’t even begin to hit on all of it, but I will mention a couple of ideas, to get you started, knowing your take on things might be completely different, and that’s OK!

Two Souls, One Body

When Wanderer and Melanie were learning to co-exist, arguing with each other, each trying to assert their own will, each learning to yield their will to their other’s… I couldn’t help but think of the Holy Spirit living inside of a believer.  Of course, the Holy Spirit doesn’t come in uninvited (as Wanderer did), but just because He’s been invited, doesn’t mean a person’s will is always in agreement with Spirit’s will.  It is a process.  A person has to learn to listen to the Holy Spirit, to yield to the Holy Spirit, to respect the Holy Spirit.  Many times a person will find his will (or flesh) is in opposition to the Spirit’s will and he has to decide whose will will win.  The Holy Spirit is not forceful, but He is always right, always best—learning and trusting that though, is sometimes hard.

Just like Mel and Wanda grew in their relationship, so that in the end their wills were increasingly alike and in alignment, so too, as you and I learn to listen to the leading of the Holy Spirit, learn to trust and to respond to Him, our wills and His become increasingly similar, increasingly aligned.  And we will find ourselves more and more inclined to yield to Him, when differences of opinion arise.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Romans 8:5-9

Not by Force

The sight of this beautiful, strange, alien soul lying dead and lifeless on the floor of the operating room was powerful.   As much as they wronged the humans, as much as you want to see them leave the earth, there was still a sense of horrific brutality when it was shown lying on the floor, dead.  And then Wanda gives a way:  Kindness.  Yes, they were wrong.  Yes, they needed to stop what they were doing and leave, but when force was applied, it was messy and everyone was damaged.  No one survived when they were forced to leave.

Now I’m not a pacifist.  I won’t say that there is never a time for war or force, but I do think that, especially on a personal (rather than national) level, there is quite a lesson to be learned here.   If we look to Jesus, we see that He forgave those who killed Him.  He taught that the last would be first, that to be great was to be a servant, that you should “go the extra mile”, and that you should love your enemy (see Matthew 5:38-48).  Jesus didn’t use force to save the world, he used kindness, rooted in love.

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it[i] to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.  Romans 12:17-21 (emphasis added)

Overcome evil with good, not with force, not with a like turn…with GOOD.

Not Hostile, Just Crying out for Help

There was a woman host, Seeker, who was relentlessly pursuing Wanda/Mel.  She was acting very contrary to the other peaceable alien souls—killing anyone in her way, not willing to live in peace until she found this one who got away.  The humans captured Seeker and were able to take the alien soul out of her and send it away.  Once freed from the alien invader, they found out that the woman had been screaming inside her head for years, trying to get out, trying to get free.  All the anger and hostility in her before was because there was a WAR going on inside of her, a war for control, for freedom, for peace.

I think the same thing is true of a lot of people.  People we see as an enemy, that are hateful, hostile, that hurt others, that are relentless and angry and restless…so often they are that way because of a battle going on inside.  It’s a battle no one sees or hears, but the resulting fall out of that internal battle manifests outwardly, upon anyone and everyone in their path.  Often, they are desperately seeking something, searching for answers, for hope, for peace, for love, for acceptance, for freedom, and their frustrated search leaves them not only empty, but angry.  The temptation is to run from them, or to hurt them, or to try to stop them.  (The humans were tempted to kill Seeker in order to stop her from hurting them.)   Maybe though what they need is Jesus.  Maybe what they need is the answer.  Maybe they just need to be freed from the thing that is holding them captive—from demonic forces, from lies, from deception, from addiction, from futility.  Maybe then you’ll hear them say, “I’ve been screaming inside for years, but no one has heard me.”

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.  Isaiah 61:  1-3

Questions for Discussion:

  • Do you ever find that your will and the Holy Spirit’s will are not in agreement?  How do you respond to that?
  • Have you found that it gets easier to live with the Holy Spirit inside you with practice, and as your relationship with Him grows?
  • Paul wrote in Romans 7: 15-20 about the battle between his flesh and his spirit – wanting to do good, but his body not cooperating.  How have you experienced that struggle?  In what areas of your life do you find that your flesh wants to do things that your mind / spirit knows aren’t in your best interest?
  • Are there any evils you are facing in your life?  How are you tempted to respond?  How can you respond (and possibly overcome) with good?
  • What are some examples you can think of when someone overcame evil with good?
  •  What are some examples you can think of when someone responded to evil with force, and it made it worse?
  • Have you ever been in a time of searching or transition or some kind of captivity, and found that it made you angry, or at least appear angry?
  •  Have you known anyone who was a “horrible person” but completely changed when they found Jesus?
  • Seeker had such a battle going on inside of her that people outside of her were hurt in consequence.   Can you think of examples of how or when this happens in real life?

Other parallels and concepts worth considering: 

  • Jeb seemed crazy when he built this underground sanctuary, designed solar panels to grow wheat in a cave, etc., but he saved their lives.  Noah seemed crazy when he built the ark, but he too saved lives with his architectural creation.
  • The aliens felt their ways were superior, but even if they had been right, it would never have justified their methods.  It was nothing more than imperialism.  Compare that to the crusades, to how the white man treated the Native Americans, or the Africans, or African Americans… and the list could easily go on and on and on.  It happens all the time in both the political and the religious spheres –sometimes with hostile intent, and just as often with good, but naïve intent.
  • Forgiveness.  One of the humans asked Wanda:  “You want us to forgive and let them go?  Just like that?”
  • What is worth living for?  In the beginning of the film, Seeker wonders what has kept Mel alive after she broke every bone in her body and punctured so many of her organs.  And what is worth dying for?  Wanda says, “Be happy Mel.  Be happy that after living so many lives, I finally found something to die for.”

Review by Stacey Tuttle