“The Host,” written by Stephenie Meyer (novel) and Andrew Niccol (screenplay), directed by Niccol, 125 minutes, rated PG-13.
With all of the hoopla surrounding the “Twilight” saga, and the money that came with it, it’s no surprise that Hollywood would want to adapt Stephenie Meyer’s “other” novel, “The Host.” As you might expect, Meyer’s “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” inspired story has all the elements that have made her so popular: Teenagers, a love triangle, and the slightest sense of danger amid a confused romance. Unlike “Twilight,” however, “The Host” is intolerable, made all the worse by knowing that gifted “Gattaca” helmer Andrew Niccol wrote and directed the film.
Unlike most post-apocalyptic films, “The Host” introduces you to a world that is already lost, where almost every human body has been overrun by glowing-eyed alien hosts who have taken it upon themselves to solve all the world’s problems. Is it a dystopian society or Utopian? The film never really explores that question, unfortunately.
We’re quickly introduced to Melanie (the usually dependable Saoirse Ronan), a rebellious Southern girl separated from her family and lover Jared (Max Irons), as she is captured by the invaders and has her body taken hostage by a generations-old alien known as “Wanderer.” Melanie isn’t dead though. Her soul and mind are still alive while her body is under the control of Wanderer. Here we find the film’s biggest flaw – a poorly written, ridiculous voice-over from Melanie that persists throughout the entire film.
Wanderer begins to sympathize with Melanie and her struggle to return to Jared and her brother, Jamie (Chandler Canterbury), and the two, joined in one body, journey into the desert to find a remote camp where Jared and Jamie have been hiding out with a small pack of humans. When the clan finds Wanderer, or Wanda, as she’s come to be known by, she is met with hostility and confusion from her loved ones as she opens her eyes revealing the gleaming blue that they’ve come to fear.
Kept on a tight, but protective leash by her uncle Jeb (William Hurt), Melanie and Wanda struggle to co-exist. While Melanie is in love with Jared, Wanda develops feelings for one of the group’s farmers, Ian (Jake Abel, the best thing about the film). With a seeker (Diane Kruger) hot on the trail of the insubordinate Melanie and hellbent on her demise, the livelihood of this small group of humans is put in jeopardy by merely having Melanie/Wanda take refuge with them.
Before I tear “The Host” apart, I have to say, despite the unoriginal premise, there are a lot of really great ideas here that, unfortunately, get pushed aside. The duality of Melanie and Wanda living in the same body should have helped the film transcend its derivative story, but instead it’s dumbed down with one of the worst, most unconvincing voice-overs I’ve ever heard. The question of whether Earth’s new occupiers are actually good or bad for the planet goes unnoticed by Niccol and company. And, of course, the lovey-dovey dialogue between Melanie and Jared, and Wanda and Ian, rivals the most insufferable moments from any of the “Twilight” films.
In addition to several missed opportunities, there’s not a lot of motion in “The Host,” which seems content with just having characters in a setting without any real purpose or direction. For a two hour film about an alien invasion, not a lot happens. It makes the movie feel about 20 minutes longer than it actually is.
So here’s my problem. Andrew Niccol is an incredibly talented filmmaker. Saoirse Ronan is one of the brightest young actresses working today. How, then, is “The Host” so terrible? It’s not just a bad movie, but a movie that gets on your nerves. You would think that with Niccol behind the camera and Ronan in front of it, that they would produce something that is at least worth watching. Sadly, that’s not the case here. Not even close.