Synopsis: When an unseen enemy threatens mankind by taking over their bodies and erasing their memories, Melanie will risk everything to protect the people she cares most about, proving that love can conquer all in a dangerous new world.
Stars: Saoirse Ronan, Max Irons, Jake Abel, Diane Kruger, William Hurt, Frances Fisher
Director: Andrew Niccol
Running Length: TBD
TMMM Score: (4/10)
Review: Let’s just face the facts –Stephenie Meyer just isn’t a very good writer. No matter how much spit shine you put on the film adaptation of her novels you can’t escape that reality. The four Twilight novels (and subsequent five films) were a worldwide phenomenon…but these always had a shelf life on them. Her other literary endeavor is The Host and though it was marginally better received in the book community, it’s yet another half-baked saga concerning a love triangle and the impact that has on a continuing battle between two species.
To its credit, The Host is a bit loftier in the message it’s trying to convey but for every inch the film moves forward in making a point about a peaceful society, the sappy romance elements drag it back a few feet. Worse, the film has to overcome more than a few silly plot devices such as a character having an ongoing internal dialogue with a secondary personality living inside her head.
If that last statement had you going back and reading it again…maybe I should back up. The Host is set in the not too distant future where an alien race has invaded our planet and implanted “souls” in our bodies. These souls are alien life forms from distant planets that are here to restore peace and order to a troubled world. Problem is, to do so they use our bodies as vessels…destroying our original personality and replacing it with one from the souls. Though they can access our memories, mankind has become a prisoner in their own bodies.
Some humans have developed a way to fight their host and that’s where we find Melanie Stryder (Oscar nominee Ronan) as she is implanted with a soul (that calls itself Wanderer…hey…at least it isn’t Renesmee!) that she battles with and eventually learns to coexist with as she leads her physical body to the desert where a small band of freedom fighters await her. It also helps that her uncle (a surprisingly game Hurt), her brother (Chandler Canterbury), and her love interest (Irons, son of Jeremy) are there as well.
Pursued by a vengeful Seeker (Kruger…doing her best Charlize Theron impression) as Melanie/Wanderer joins the fight, another love interest (Abel) comes into play…creating not so much a love triangle but a rectangle of feelings. While the film isn’t as dewy eyed or groan-inducing as the Twilight films, there are more than a few moments when your eyes will get a nice workout from rolling around in your head.
In his previous films Gattaca, Simone, and In Time, director Niccol has created a steely sterile version of the future and those same elements are on display here. All of the “bad guy” cars are shiny silver (even the helicopters) and everything about the enemies is in perfect alignment. That contrasts nicely with the rough edges of the remaining un-hosted humans who look like refugees from a Mad Max movie. Shot in some fantastic vistas in New Mexico, the film looks expensive and has some above average special effects.
It’s too bad that the script doesn’t match up to the production values. Adapting Meyer’s novel was probably a chore and I think Niccol did his best with it…but an overabundance of cliché situations doesn’t give the film much room to breathe. Ronan is a decent heroine, though like a groundhog her Louisiana accent only comes out to see its shadow before it retreats. Irons and Abel are, if possible, blander love interests than the vampires and werewolves in Twilight and Kruger just doesn’t fit the ice queen persona she’s tasked to play. Only Hurt seems to come out of this unscathed…maybe because he knows not to take everything so very seriously.
When all is said and done I’m glad that The Host was a standalone novel and not one we will see countless sequels for the next few years. With the recent released (and much better) Beautiful Creatures totally bombing, I’ve a feeling this one will be a hard sell to audiences who are exhausted from tween romances. For all its sleek effects and occasional on the money social observance, The Host winds up feeling lackluster and sluggish and not the satisfying movie experience that it could have been