Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Host - Review

I love creature features.

There's really no other way to say it.  There's nothing like a big crazy monster stomping around eating humans and the humans fighting it.  Godzilla, Rodan, King Kong, Mothra, all those wacky movies are just things I love to watch.  It's not only an enjoyment of the imaginative movies themselves, but my training in biology and anthropology that makes me wonder, could such things exist?  What would their society be like if there was more than one of them?  How would their existence affect the ecology of the region they live in?  But that's all scientific stuff.  Most of that doesn't really apply in monster movies, but that's just why i find them so interesting.

So it's no surprise my Netflix queue is filled with them.  yesterday evening I picked one at random, The Host.  Turned out to be a very decent korean or vietnamese (forgive my ignorance about what country of origin this movie emerged from, I'm an american, so I claim american ignorance of the world around me as my excuse) flick.  Movie quality was excellent and it appeared to be a big-budget production.

Let me set this up for you.  A medical lab wants to get rid of some formaldehyde.  This is a toxic preservative.  The guy in charge of the lab (an american) orders his asian (again, forgive my ignorance of the man's origins, I mean no disrespect) employee to just dump the contents of some bottles down the water drain, which will pollute the nearby Han river.  At least, I think it was the Han river.  I suppose if I weren't such a lazy git, I could look up the Han river and find out what country it's in, but honestly, it doesn't really have much effect on the story.  It could just as easily have been the mississippi.  At first I thought it was just a few bottles, but as the camera rolls sideways, you seen an extravagantly long table just FILLED with the empty bottles that have already been dumped.  And so the story begins.  In very short progression, we see a bunch of little scenes spread out over a few years, in which the creature is first seen as a small tadpole, then a larger shadow beneath the waters, and so on, up til we get to the now of the story, when it's the size of a bus, and much more mobile.

I'm going to draw some parallels here.  Godzilla in japan was born of radiation.  This beast was born of toxic chemicals polluting a large river.  In both cases, americans were or are shown to be the root cause.  Of course in japan's case, the distinction is never mentioned like in this movie, only inferred.  The dropping of atomic weapons on japan during ww2 being the likely genesis of Godzilla is never directly referred to in the godzilla movies, but it's like the 800 pound gorilla in the room.  You know how it got there.  You don't need to be told.  Mentioning it would only make people uncomfortable.  Yet there it is.  in The Host, the very beginning of the movie makes it clear...  Us damn americans have no respect for anything.  Or at least, some of us don't, according to this movie.  Sometimes I wonder why we don't have our own monster movies here, blaming gigantic monsters that destroy cleveland on the chernobyl incident, but we don't.  Not sure why.  Might be fun to make one, but eh.  On to the review.

So the Host, in this movie, refers to the large fishy/tadpole-y critter that takes up residence in the river and begins eating people.  At least, I think it does.  Most of the movie is actually not about the fish-monster.  It's actually about this poor slob of a guy who works for his father in a food stand near the river.  He seems to have narcolepsy, and even when he's awake he's not too sharp.  He has a daughter, a sister, and a brother, although only his father and his daughter live with him in the food shack, which is owned by his father, the girl's grand-dad.  The man, named Gung-du, if I am not mistaken, is going about his usual day's work in his usual sloppy manner when the creature first makes it way out of the river.  Chaos ensues, and Gung-du's entire family is quickly pulled into the tale.

That's all I am giving away.  I'm going to say a few more things but hopefully, I can disguise my comments in such a way that you won't know anything about the plot unless you've already seen the movie.  The creature is featured often, of course.  I wouldn't give this movie a review unless the creature was quite prominent, but it's almost a sideline to the family drama that goes on.  Almost reminds me, again, of the old godzilla movies, where there's a lot of drama occurring along the sidelines caused by the beast's rampages, and often the drama among the people is more important to the end of the tale than what the monster does.

Gung-du and his family have some problems, that much is readily apparent.  They are pretty normal, and therefore pretty dysfunctional, and yet they all try and band together to survive the crisis.  Gung-du's transformation alone is worth watching the movie for.  At the moment, he seems more of a hero to me than the much more popular Harry Potter (who's movie series finale I reviewed a few posts ago).  The ending of The Host was pretty spectacular, but one thing seems to stand out in my mind, and that's... why nobody tried to do CPR?  Makes no sense, but I guess the movie had to turn out that way, and if you see it, you'll know what I mean.

Good movie.  I'd watch it again.  Wish the ending was a bit different, but still not too shabby.  Two hours long, so watch it when you have a good chunk of time to spare.  Certainly not a B-movie.  This looks like it was done in hollywood, but I know it wasn't.  Creature effects are better than most of the stuff I saw in avatar, so fuck you, James Cameron.  lol  No nudity, no martial arts, no laser guns, this is all about a creature popping up in an urban environment and what happens thereafter.  As a result, this is probably one of the most realistic monster movies that I have seen.  The monster's origins may be a bit silly to my way of thinking, but that doesn't really have an impact on how realistically the rest of the tale is told.  I guess you have to have an excuse to have a monster, and formaldehyde is as good as any.

The Host, on Netflix at the moment.

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