Movie Review: “The Host”

After seeing “The Host,” I believe I finally understand Stephanie Meyer. She must be possessed by one of the alien life forms in this story.

The aliens, called Souls, inhabit human bodies and strip away anything resembling realistic human emotion. While their ultimate goal is never quite clear, it makes for a story that is at least more interesting than “Twilight.” But as Meyer’s M.O. goes, she forgoes the opportunity to flesh out compelling material in favor of sappy romance triangles and adolescent hormones.

Andrew Niccol is an excellent director and his best feature to date, “Gattaca,” is a modern sci-fi masterpiece. He brings a similar visual panache to “The Host,” which has some truly glossy moments including vehicles that seem to be made of mirrors and a lot of inhabited human beings with the same ethereal blue eye color. The Souls themselves are also pretty captivating, and Niccol takes at least two opportunities to focus on them while Antonio Pinto’s effective score accompanies.

The story has a lot of potential and actress Saoirse Ronan has a great deal to do with that. For those that remember, she played the young Briony Tallis in “Atonement” and walked away with the movie. Here she plays Melanie, and when the movie opens we find her fighting off a band of inhabited humans called Seekers. After putting up a good fight, Melanie is captured and the Seekers imbed a Soul within her mind. How they do this is pretty fun to watch, but disturbing if you think about it too long.

The Soul that inhabits Melanie is called “‘Wanderer” due to the fact that it has been on many planets before earth. Wanderer’s job is to scan Melanie’s mind and deliver any information to the Seekers that may help them find remaining humans that they predictably dub “the resistance.” Melanie, however, remains conscious within her body and fights with Wanderer for control of it.

With a strong visual palette and a halfway intriguing story, “The Host” starts off promising enough. But poor Andrew Niccol is held back from really getting into the good stuff by a dud of a screenplay, which was co-written by Meyer herself. So restricted and narrow is the story, Niccol could feasibly refer to Stephanie Meyer as “the ole’ ball and chain.” Meyer has drafted a world with endless possibilities for dramatic tension and urgent conflict but instead chooses to again wallow in idealistic teen romance. And the love triangle in this one is really bizarre – with two guys competing for the affections of two different female personalities but only one physical body. Uh huh.

We never get a sense of what the Souls want, or even a backstory to explain why they came to earth at all. And those pesky Seekers; try as they might, they can’t find Melanie/Wanderer once she runs off, so they basically give up and go home so that the love story can play out in familiar fashion. There’s another thing – Melanie and her Soul start to respect each other and become friends, and with infinite philosophies to discuss and things to learn from each other, they spend their time bickering about which boy the other one is allowed to kiss or not kiss.

I have no idea how much of this resembles the book it’s based on but, really, who cares? By now, Stephanie Meyer has proven herself to be a one-trick pony. So caught up is she in her lovey-dovey fantasy land, she completely dilutes any sense of relevance in her own stories. I have yet to see a couple in love that resembles anything close to an Edward/Bella or Melanie/Jared situation. I know I am not the target audience for these things, and clearly Meyer is earning her millions by pleasing her demographic.

But like I said, at least “The Host” is more interesting than “Twilight.”

“The Host” — 2 stars out of 4; rated PG-13; running time 1 hour, 45 minutes.