½ star (out of four)
Rated PG-13 for some sensuality and violence
Available on: Blu-ray, DVD, digital download and on demand
The movies inspired by Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” novels were bland, especially considering the supernatural subject matter. Yet if one considers those movies bad, it’s difficult to find an adjective strong enough to criticize Meyer’s latest film adaptation.
“The Host” is a science-fiction effort that starts poorly and steadfastly refuses to improve. In fact, if the film weren’t so boring, one could almost respect how completely writer-director Andrew Niccol fails. One might also salute Meyer for again making fascinating material so dull.
“The Host” centers on aliens who conquer Earth by taking control of humans. Once an alien has merged with a host, it can move the body at will, but it doesn’t extinguish the mind. That means a stubborn human can actively communicate with its alien invader, attempting to influence its actions and even win its sympathy. Melanie Stryder (Saoirse Ronan) is as tenacious as they come, so when an alien known as Wanderer takes control of her body, she refuses to submit. This creates an unusual situation where Melanie and Wanderer battle with one another until realizing it is probably best for them to work together.
Because Meyer is also a romantic, “The Host” – like “Twilight” – contains relationship drama. This time, the film doesn’t focus on a human deciding between vampire and werewolf lovers; it centers on two women sharing the same body yet longing for different men. This might be interesting if Melanie and Wanderer were better developed. Sadly Ronan presents Wanderer as a milquetoast trespasser troubled by the fact that her host is so strong. Melanie, on the other hand, is a shrill presence presented only as a desperate voice in Wanderer’s head.
Needless to say, “The Host” fails as a romance, but it also struggles as an adventure film. The body-snatching angle has been done before, and the aliens, led by a determined woman known only as The Seeker (Diane Kruger), aren’t menacing enough. What’s more, those aliens don’t make sense. Despite possessing incredible medical technology, they are limited to 21st century vehicles, like helicopters and cars.
In other words, Meyer didn’t do any of the world-building required for a great science-fiction film. That leaves viewers with an uninspiring love story set against a background that never really works.
DVD and Blu-ray extras include a behind-the-scenes feature, deleted scenes and an audio commentary featuring Meyer and Niccol.
By Forrest Hartman