By Gary Murray
Starring Saoirse Ronan, Max Irons and Jake Abel
Based on the novel by Stephenie Meyers
Written and directed by Andrew Niccol
Running time 125 min
MPAA Rating PG-13
Selig Film Rating Free TV
The idea of an alien invasion has been around since the days of H.G. Wells. It parallels our paranoia of the unknown and the fear of others.
There have been alien invasion flicks over the years, films that have run from deadly serious to seriously comic. Some have been done on a shoe-string budget while other have been multi-million dollar productions. Stephenie Meyers, the writer of the Twilight series of books, has decided to tackle the genre in her newest The Host.
The film is of the invasion of earth from beings called “Souls”. They are parasitic alien forms that take over the brains of their hosts. They are small and delicate, more like a white jellyfish than a pod person or double-mouthed creature. The only sign that an alien inhabits the body is the sparking white the eyes turn.
Melanie (Saoirse Ronan) is a young girl hiding from the alien invasion. She has a singular goal, to save her younger brother Jamie (Chandler Canterbury). One day she is captured and Wanderer is put into her body. The only thing is Melanie is such a strong soul that Wanderer cannot completely control the Host. The two consciousnesses have a battle for the body of the young girl.
We find out through exposition that Melanie has fallen for Jared (Max Irons), a young man who has been trying to find a way to fight off the invasion. Melanie had been making plans to find her uncle Jeb. It is rumored that he is hiding in the dessert with the rebels. The Wanderer is pushed by The Seeker to get information about the rebel insurrection.
Melanie/Wanderer eventually find the hideout. At the dessert place, there is Jared and Jamie. Both believe that Wanderer will give them away. But, Wanderer begins to see the wonder that is humanity, feeling sympathy for the conquered people. Also, Wanderer meets Ian (Jake Abel) and falls for the human. So one young woman has two different people in her body and is in love with two different men. It is not as confusing as it sounds but it is as silly.
The Host becomes a teen angst flick in the milieu of science fiction. It is not in any way, shape or form modern science fiction. It is what someone who knows nothing about the genre thinks science fiction actually is.
The motivation of our three main teen characters has all the pathos of young love but without the connections of the situation. The emotions of the characters run all over the place without any rhyme or reason.
So much of the details of The Host are ridiculous. All the bad guys have shiny silver cars and motorcycles. It becomes obvious that the humans are driving across the desert because their truck doesn’t shine in the sunlight. The aliens have gotten rid of all advertising and buildings read ‘Store”. It is a communist utopia and money is no longer used, you just take what you need. The production feels more like a silly 1970s style television science fiction than a serious story.
The biggest problem I had with The Host is in the casting. Saoirse Ronan is a wonderful young actress and that’s the problem. She is too young for this part. There are some very suggestive sex scenes in the film and I found it more than a little creepy watching a girl that young in bed with a man. Call me old-fashioned but I do not want to see someone who is basically a teenager in the sack with a man. It is creepy and off-setting. This is a role she should have tackled in about five to ten more years.
Easily the most interesting character is by Diane Kruger as The Seeker. She is the woman in charge and becomes obsessed with finding Wanderer. Her steadfast determination is oddly out of place in the future that the aliens want to bring to our world. It is a fascinating and bitter reading of the character.
The Host, the book, is intended to be part of a trilogy of novels. We must expect a trilogy of films. The film ends with a cliff-hanger style ending, trying to build anticipation for the next installment. It is not anything I will be waiting for.