The Host

Directed by: Andrew Niccol

Starring:  Saoirse Ronan, Diane Kruger, Jake Abel, Max Irons, and William Hurt

With the end of the wildly successful, but critically panned Twilight series last year, teenagers are looking for the next Stephenie Meyer series to fall in love with.  Enter The Host.  I must say, that as I sat in the theater and a horde of giggly teenagers came pouring in, I could not help but roll my eyes and curse my luck at drawing the short stick on movie reviews this weekend.  Much to my surprise, The Host was okay.

In The Host, aliens have invaded Earth and injected their souls into people.  The vast majority of humans now serve as hosts for alien life forms.  Invasion aside, the aliens are peaceful and have developed an incredibly orderly society.  However, there are some uninfected humans left who remain hidden, trying to save humanity.  Melanie Stryder (Saoirse Ronan) is part of that resistance.  Melanie, her little brother Jamie (Chandler Canterbury) and her boyfriend Jared (Max Irons) are on the run.  When they stop on their way to meet Melanie’s uncle, they are set upon by the Seeker (Diane Kruger) and a squad of aliens who are trying to weed out any remaining humans and ensure the aliens’ domination of the planet.  To distract the aliens and give her brother an opportunity to escape, Melanie attempts to commit suicide and jumps out of a window.

Amazingly, Melanie survives.  The aliens take her body and decide to inject her with an alien soul so that they can discover the location of the human resistance.  Melanie’s body becomes the host for a being known as the Wanderer.  Much to the Wanderer’s surprise, Melanie does not submit to alien control and actually remains very much alive within her body.  The Wanderer and Melanie battle for control.  After some effort, Melanie convinces the Wanderer to run from the other aliens and they go on a journey to find Jared and Jamie. 

Unfortunately, when the Wanderer and Melanie locate Jamie and Jared, they are in a compound led by Melanie’s uncle Jeb (William Hurt).  Because Melanie is “infected” by the aliens, she is viciously and violently rejected by almost everyone there, including her former boyfriend Jared.  As the resistance tries to decide what to do with her, Melanie struggles with her feelings for Jared, while the Wanderer starts to develop feelings for another, Ian (Jake Abel).  To complicate matters even further, the Seeker is hellbent on finding and destroying Melanie.

The Host has its ups and downs.  At the outset, it was difficult for me to take the film seriously.   Because the Wanderer inhabits Melanie, she hears Melanie’s thoughts.  So as an audience, we hear Melanie through these fairly ridiculous voice-overs. While that narrative device may have worked in the book, it is incredibly difficult to pull off in a film. When the Wanderer first starts hearing Melanie’s thoughts, I heard laughter and guffaws in my movie theater audience.  Simply put, the high-pitched voice-over came across as unintentionally silly.

While The Host has more action than the Twilight films, the movie still drags in some places.  Too often there is an attempt at depth with heavy-handed commentary about love, hope and the triumph of the human spirit.  However, the dialogue is just not well-written.

On the positive side, William Hurt delivers as the tough, wise uncle leading the resistance.  He is surly, but loving and kind of a badass.  In addition, Melanie/Wanderer is a more interesting character than Bella in the Twilight series.  Bella is incredibly melodramatic, filled with angst and quite frankly, annoying.  Voice-over aside, Melanie/Wanderer is tough, has a sense of humor, and is a real survivor.  As a female lead, she is much more compelling.

All in all, the premise of The Host is intriguing, but the execution and the script (and likely the underlying novel on which it is based) needed some work.  The Host earns a 0.09% rating.  If you’re over 21, kick back with a lemon drop martini with this one.