Directed by Andrew Niccol. Starring Saoirse Ronan, Max Irons, Jake Abel, Diane Kruger, William Hurt, Chandler Canterbury, Frances Fisher, Scott Lawrence. (2013, PG-13, 125 min.)
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., April 5, 2013
Twilight scribe Stephenie Meyer’s 2008 sci-fi novel The Host was pitched at an adult audience, but this film adaptation feels like YA, with cat’s-cradle love matches, soft-focus sexuality, and a main character who never satisfactorily makes the transition from page to screen.
Andrew Niccol, a frequent imaginer of future-imperfect scenarios (Gattaca, In Time), adapts and directs this story of Earth under peaceable siege. After an unseen war in which an alien species seizes control by occupying human bodies, the planet has “healed itself.” The aliens (called Souls) are nonviolent, respectful of the environment, and exceedingly polite – all-around excellent additions to the neighborhood, were it not for that whole body-snatching business. When a Soul occupies a human body, the host’s consciousness typically melts away, but not so in the case of Melanie (Ronan), whose mind refuses to go quietly into the night, even as an alien named Wanderer sets up house in Melanie’s skin. When Wanderer arrives at a human resistance camp (set in a cave and a production-design triumph), she develops a crush on a resistance fighter named Ian (Abel), while Melanie, a victim of locked-in syndrome, continues to pine for her old boyfriend, Jared (Irons).
Three bodies plus four minds is some fertile arithmetic, but The Host can’t be bothered with the intellectual or kinky ramifications of its setup. Niccol is splashing around the strictly shallow waters of wounded looks and PG-13 secretive smooching, and the better-suited-to-a-book depiction of the Wanderer/Melanie dynamic – dreamy-eyed alien girl and the disembodied voice in her head – is fatally doofy.