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Film Review Double Bill: The Host & G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013)

The HostJeez, what a mess. Obviously anything from the author of Twilight is likely to be pretty poor: derivative, badly written, tedious… This one hits all of those low standards for excellence. The essential concept, that of an alien invasion where the aliens occupy our bodies is standard sci-fi fare and offers enormous opportunity for excitement. That promise is totally ruined by the sheer quantity of stupid injected into the shoddy screenplay.

The aliens are travellers across the universe – they invade (in a friendly, personality destroying way) the hosts of a civilisation and then proceed to occupy the exact same roles those hosts had in their natural existence, but do it better. So pan-galactic aliens (who travel as a bundle of fibreoptic shit FX) invade people to live their tedious lives. All except for the badly-trousered guardians, or security police or whatever they call them – ah, yes Seekers, who hunt down the remaining unhosted humans and make sure they get possessed. They wear white clothes and use only the shiniest of vehicles. It’s how you know they’re the bad guys. They hunt you down with tasers in violent love.

The story is that of a girl who tries to take her own life to avoid capture and hosting and to protect her brother. She fails to kill herself and is repaired by the aliens (with their spray-on medical tools labelled “Heal”, “Clean” and other moronically simple things). They give her the lovely shiny contact lenses to denote her new alienhood – which is handy as otherwise the 1,000 year old alien behaves in exactly the same way as its irritating host. I just wanted the original character to be expunged. Oh, but she’s a really spunky tyke and fights against her evil (symbiotic and friendly) Host.

Yaaaawn, after a minor excitement she goes to find her family of natural humans. Then we get some more beating up girls (strong theme), and then everyone distrusts her, gets to like her alien pal, try to kill her, like her again, fall in love with her. Oh, and the main Seeker goes nuts and tries to kill them. The other Hosts don’t like that, but you won’t care. Eventually it ends.

The Host is almost unimaginably tedious and stupid at every step. There’s a decent cast, but they are wasted on irritating hushed voices, ludicrous script (oh I’d forgotten the dreadful voice over from the ‘trapped inside human’ – which makes half the film just the lead talking to herself) and being in a film in which nothing of note occurs. I just wanted to note how amusing the pastoral life in a volcano is: the survivors hide in a volcano, with a huge mirror array to grow crops (“you may have seen amazing sights across the universe, but nothing like this” – true, it looks stupid) which cues shots of them reaping in more or less Amish dress as if it’s a magical perfect place… ah if only we could all be farmers.

I’ve genuinely lost count of all the dumb things in this film and in truth I’d like to stop thinking about it now. Except I can’t because most of the film is a mind-numbingly dreary chaste romance between the girl, her pre-Hosted boyfriend and the Host and a guy who tried to kill her. Avoid.

GIJoeRetaliationOn to something still bad, but tonnes more fun. The first film was plagued by bad decisions – the Joes had super suits which turned them into CGI cartoons and they ended up fighting in an undersea city in the arctic. Very odd, oh and Paris got trashed as well. All of the adverts leading up to the new are painfully apologetic, promising that the new film will be much better. And you know what? It is. Sort of. There’s no real need to go into the story as there isn’t much of one – it just serves t link highly entertaining action sequences together (that’s not a complaint – what did you think you’d get, socio-politics and gender equality?)

The Joes, who appear to be the worst soldiers in the world get wiped out, including Channing Tatum (Duke) which is mildly surprising. So that we care about his loss the film makers included two vaguely comic scenes of him being bullied by The Rock (Roadblock). You won’t think about him again.

Once that’s out of the way you can enjoy Jonathan Pryce gorging himself on pigmeat to play the president and Zartan disguised as the president (CGI and using the same actor is slightly disappointing – it would have been far cooler to have Arnold Vosloo dressed up as Pryce). Yay, Cobra take over the American presidency – it’s almost exactly like a Republican government. The Joes need to resolve their massacre and fix the America. To do this they need ninjas, Bruce Willis and guns.
It’s really silly and I laughed all the way through with my friend Martin; I’ll admit that we were often the only people laughing. Some of it is hysterically daft.
Highlights for me include RZA’s terrible turn as a ninja master – some kind of black white-eyebrows. I’ve no idea what accent he is using when presiding over training scenes between Snake Eyes and Jinx. You remember how it’s best to fight with your eyes closed right? They’re engaged in a baffling plot to kidnap Storm Shadow and provide cliched martial arts movie references. They succeed on both counts. The huge rock-climbing, swinging through the air mountain battle is fun, with a high casualty rate and ninjas plummeting to their doom.
Storm Shadow breaking Cobra Commander (but not sad Destro) out of an underground super-secret prison is a great action scene. Never mind that it’s rather easy to get into if you have a motorbike that explodes into rocket projectiles (why?), the prison itself is appalling: inmates are kept in a permanent state of REM sleep, so they’re paralysed but conscious (I know, it doesn’t make sense) which seems really cruel. And their mocking egotistical jailer (one of my favourite actors in Justified) gets what he deserves.
Perhaps best of all is the global showdown between the Cobra president and other world leaders where they all whip out their identical nuclear suitcases and attempt to blow each other to bits. All the actors they’ve chosen to play European premiers are as warty and snaggle toothed as you could wish for. I don’t know why Bruce Willis is in this film, but he keeps hand grenades in his fruit bowl.
GI Joe: Retaliation is enormous fun (enjoy the Top Trumps tech specs in the intro credits which catch you up on the previous film) and the cast play it out with confidence and humour. I’d love to have seen more of Arnold Vosloo (the guy who played the mummy in The Mummy and Shakespearean actor of note in his home country), and a few more Joes would have been nice. The girls are in it mainly to look at but Jinx and Scarlett do also kick the crap out of quite a few people, which is satisfying. Watch it!

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