The Host starts off with an okay premise. Aliens invade Earth and possess the bodies of almost every living human. Then it slows to a snail’s pace that threatens never to reach an end.
The idea isn’t altogether original, but that’s not important; body possession has always been a fun theme to explore in a sci-fi thriller. As long as you can come up with something fresh to say then a new variation of Invasion of the Body Snatchers or stories of that ilk will always work. The problem is, there’s nothing fresh about The Host, and that’s a shame because with all the high-production values surrounding the film, the eye-catching cinematography and some interesting casting, you keep hoping for and expecting something more.
To her credit, author Stephenie Meyer knows her audience. In the Twilight Saga, the Arizona Cave Creek resident hooked readers with a heroine that in many ways reflected themselves. Teenage girls loved Bella; she was the wish-fulfillment of a fantasy romance made manifest. In The Host, Meyer has tried it again, this time with a heroine whose name is something less than romantically gothic but just as appropriate given the situation.
Melanie Stryder (Ireland’s Saoirse Ronan with a perfect American accent) is something of a rebel. While others around her are invaded by alien parasites, Melanie struggles to maintain her own personality, even though she has also become victim of an alien possession. She refuses to allow the new personality to take over her body with the result that both personalities – human and alien – share the same mind, though the alien appears to have the majority of physical control.
The Host is yet another example of something that presumably worked better on the page than on the screen. The two minds at work in the same body can easily come across as two distinct personalities when reading words on a page, but when acted on screen, seeing one character while hearing the other in a continual voice-over with a slight echo not only gets in the way, it actually becomes annoying, like a background narration that interrupts and won’t quit.
The interesting casting comes in the shape of Diane Kruger as an alien known as The Seeker. “Our world is perfect,” she declares, indicating how easy it is for the aliens to zoom in and clean up. Then there’s William Hurt as Jeb, the slow talking but thoughtful human. “I always liked science fiction,” he drawls, then adds, “Never imagined I’d be living in one.”
“They have strong physical drives,” the Seeker states, letting us know that the aliens can feel all the physical sensations and desires a human has, yet what sounds like an interesting theme to explore results in nothing more exciting than a thousand year old alien engaging in a passionate kiss with a teenage boy. Like the fangless, bloodless world of vampires in Twilight, Meyer has softened the edge of an alien invasion and turned it into another teenage soap.
When you think of it, what has happened to the world is horrifying, and such an idea would usually be treated as a story filled with edge-of-your-seat thrills and scares, but not in a world created by Stephenie Meyer. Allow me the indulgence of quoting Forrest Gump: Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get. Unless, of course, it’s a life in a world created by Stephenie Meyer, then you’re guaranteed a soft center every time.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 125 minutes Overall Rating: 5 (out of 10)