Beautiful Creatures failed spectacularly at becoming the next big young adult paranormal romance. Open Road Films is hoping they can corner that market by going to the source of the recent trend. The Host, written and directed by Andrew Niccol (Gattaca, In Time, S1m0ne) is based on the novel of the same name by none other than Twilight’s Stephanie Meyer.
Earth is nearly 100% at peace, perfect in every way – save for the fact that humans are no longer in control of their own bodies. A parasitic race of aliens known as “souls” has taken over the planet, bringing peace and order to chaos by effectively wiping out the contagiousness of the entire human race, taking command of their bodies. There are a few survivors scattered across the globe though that have evaded capture and we are introduced to one of them – Melanie Stryder (Saoirse Ronan) – just as she is taken and infected with a soul, becoming it’s host.
The alien inside her calls itself Wanderer and, as is often the case in these situations, finds humans (particularly Melanie) very different than other races with our strong emotions. Wanderer is tasked with extracting vital memories of other rebels from Melanie’s mind. Those memories of love for her brother Jamie (Chandler Canterbury) and the handsome Jared (Max Irons) start to affect Wanderer in ways she wasn’t expecting and the two suddenly find themselves helping each other.
Leave it to Stephanie Meyer to up the ante of the love triangle by turning it into a love square. In a move that would have made a brilliant episode of Star Trek, “Wanda,” the alien inside Melanie’s head, finds herself falling for hunky human Ian (Jake Abel). Poor Melanie must watch silently as Jared tries to decide whether the girl he cared for still exists.
It’s situations like this that make for a fascinating premise, from a sci-fi standpoint, but Meyer’s story fails to even remotely explore these ideas to their full extent. Character development is paper thin with the two guys feeling pretty much interchangeable in most ways. Even though we spend most of the movie with both Melanie and Wanda, their relationship is barely developed, making jumps from stage to stage as quickly as a frog leaps to a new lily pad. William Hurt, doing his best Jeff Bridges, is one of the more interesting characters but alas, we don’t get to learn much about him either.
Ronan’s performance is what keeps the whole thing together, working with what she has. Even so, many of her lines – especially the annoyingly echoing “inside her head voice” – come off painfully cheesy. There was many a moment intended to carry emotional gravity that had the theater laughing instead.
In the end, this movie, like the Earth, carries a “mostly harmless” vibe. It never commits a serious enough crime to warrant hate, but it is by no means good. I found myself enjoying it, for lack of a better term, mostly due to the fact that I found the premise interesting and the lead likable. The ending begs for a sequel and unless this one flops, I’m sure there will be and I might just be interested enough to watch. Maybe.
Mrs. Hamster did not attend this screening.
My Rating: Three out of Five Hats:
The Host opens in 3,202 theaters, March 29