Imaginative sci-fi bogged down by teen romance in ‘The Host’
We all know Stephenie Meyer from Twilight, the franchise that set teen hearts aflutter with sparkly vampires and bland high school love interests. She’s back with something of the non-blood-sucking variety with The Host, adapted from her sci-fi novel of the same name. The film takes an classic sci-fi concept (aliens taking over the human race) and mixes in the teeny romance Meyer is known for, creating a sort of Star Trek meets The Notebook film that falls flat.
Feather-like parasitic aliens have landed in droves. In just a short while, they completely taken over the earth, turning humans into bodysnatched Stepford civilians who all look like nerds trying to get into P.Diddy’s white party. Meet Melanie (Saoirse Ronan), one of few remaining regular humans on the planet. Before we get the chance to know her, she’s dead. Well, technically she’s alive, but she’s “occupied” by a parasitic alien named Wanderer. But Melanie is a strong one and her consciousness remains, bugging the crap out of Wanderer in a sort of dueling inner monologue. Eventually, Melanie convinces Wanderer that humans are actually the good guys and both girls, living simultaneously in Melanie’s body, make a journey to the desert to meet up with a resistance group of humans. They are pursued by The Seeker (Diane Kruger), who is fiercely determined to capture Wanderer and find out why she’s losing the battle of wills with her host’s consciousness. It’s humans vs emotionless aliens vs compassionate aliens.
And this is where an old-school sci-fi concept turns into a teen movie.
At the ancient volcano these rebels call home, Melanie reunites with her little brother (Chandler Canterbury) and long lost boyfriend, Jared (Max Irons). He’s distrustful, since everyone can tell that Melanie isn’t quite Melanie anymore. Wanderer, whom they nickname Wanda, has to try to fit in with a group, lead by the sympathetic Jeb (William Hurt), who see her as the enemy and repeatedly discuss killing her, all while she’s internally arguing with Melanie about how to behave. It only gets worse when Wanderer develops a crush on Ian (Jake Abel), one of the cute, teenage survivors. Sci-fi turns to teen romance as both guys try to pursue the two consciousnesses living in the same body—and it’s not even that great of a body! What happens when you you has a crush on a different boy than alien you? Apparently that question warrants the shelving of the entire sci-fi concept so the story can shift to cute boys and tame kissing.
The first half hour of The Host gave me hope. The idea remind me of an old Stargate Atlantis episode (yes, I’m a nerd) and had the potential to be unique and imaginative. Director Andrew Niccol has made some visually interesting sci-fi films, including Gattaca and In Time, so the sleek style hinted that this might be something more than a teen movie. Then it just got too damn “Stephenie Meyer” for me. The longing glances, the waifish girls whose milkshakes inexplicably bring all the boys to the yard, the “I want to kiss you, but I can’t” sexual frustrations, all of it overwhelmed what could have been kind of a cool movie. Even the fans at the theater around me, who had been bragging about how many times they’d read the book, were snickering at some of the cheesier moments.
Sadly, Meyer has the magic touch and even Twilight fanfiction seems to blow up like The Godfather (see: Fifty Shades) so The Host will surely attract her base, but it feels a bit same-shit-different-day to me.