Invasion of the Body Snatchers mixed with teen love, The Host has the potential to be a good movie and a solid addition to the sci-fi genre, but the film gets weighed down by a middle that kills the pace and a story that doesn’t seem to go anywhere.
Based on the novel from Twilight’s Stephenie Meyer (who also produced the film), The Host was written and directed by Andrew Niccol (1997’s Gattaca) and stars Saoirse Ronan, Jake Abel, Max Irons, Frances Fisher, Chandler Canterbury, Diane Kruger, William Hurt, Boyd Holbrook, Scott Lawrence, and Emily Browning.
The film introduces the plot quickly with a voice-over narration that explains the Earth is now nearly perfect. There are no more wars. There is no more pollution. The only problem is this perfection is due to an alien invasion that has seen the human population replaced by the alien invaders – who inhabit the human bodies.
There are still pockets of humans out there, but they are on the run from the aliens – who hunt them so they can serve as hosts for newly arriving aliens. The audience is then introduced to Melanie Stryder (Ronan) as she jumps out a window in an attempt to avoid being taken.
The fall should have killed her, but the aliens have medical technology that brings her back. With her body healed, an alien (who goes by the name Wanderer) is implanted inside her.
Unfortunately for Wanderer, Melanie is a fighter and she isn’t quite willing to let Wanderer take control of her mind. Instead, she becomes a very loud voice in Wanderer’s head – even if she has to hide Melanie’s intrusion from Seeker (Kruger).
Seeker sees Wanderer as a way to find the remaining humans and finish taking over the planet. Wanderer also argues that her race is a peace-loving kind of alien who come to planets to live in harmony with the population they choose to serve as their hosts.
Melanie argues her side of the story and the two agree they can’t continue this way – not to mention Seeker has decided to remove Wanderer from Melanie and take over her body herself so she can get the information.
Wanderer tells Melanie there is a doctor who might be able to help them, and the two flee the city. Melanie tricks Wanderer into heading to the desert in an attempt to help Melanie get back to her brother Jamie (Canterbury) and the love of her life Jared Howe (Irons).
Things don’t go as planned as Wanderer (who is keeping Melanie’s survival in her head a secret) is treated as a prisoner by Melanie’s uncle Jeb Stryder (Hurt), and threatened to be killed by Jared – who only sees the alien Melanie has become.
The movie then stalls the pace so a love triangle can slowly form. Wanderer, who gets the new name Wanda, slowly starts to be accepted by the surviving humans and even starts to find a love interest of her own in Ian O’Shea (Abel), but the relationship can’t work since Melanie is in love with Jared – who finally starts to accept that Melanie is alive inside Wanda’s mind. Wanda also can’t help but feel attracted to Jared due to Melanie’s memories and feelings about him.
While romance blooms, Seeker continues to hunt for Wanderer and the humans, and gets closer to their secret cave hideout. Sadly, there is next to zero action in the film – which makes Seeker’s search just a huge waste of time.
The final solution presents a challenge for Wanda and Ian. She decides to inform the humans there is a way to separate the aliens from their host, but it would mean death for Wanda. It is a choice she is willing to make to reunite Melanie with Jared – even if it means ending her love for Ian. The final resolution is easily predictable, and the film offers no real pay-off for the time spent watching Seeker and the other aliens tracking the final humans.
With its Invasion of the Body Snatchers elements, The Host had the potential to be a truly great sci-fi film. The cast is solid and believable in their roles, but they are all wasted on a script that gives them no real development or reason for the audience to care about them.
Ronan does a good job making Wanda and Melanie seem very different – even if the voice-over chatting between the two characters gets a tad annoying. She is an extremely talented actress and has a charisma on the screen that keeps you invested in the character. There just isn’t enough story to make you truly care about Wanda’s sacrifice – which is further hurt by the predictability of the outcome of that sacrifice.
The love triangle between Ronan, Irons and Abel gives the film some tension, but the lack of development on the two male characters make the romance feel too formulated for the audience to really care about how it will turn out. Irons and Abel are both talented actors, but the roles could have been played by anyone with the same impact. Hurt and Fisher are also wasted in the film and given little more to do than stand around and cash their paychecks.
On Blu-ray, The Host features a slick picture that matches the tone and futuristic setting of the film. It also comes loaded with bonus material including deleted scenes and a look at how the film journeyed from book to the screen. The “making of” feature includes interviews with Meyer, Ronan, Irons and Abel. There is also a Seeker PSA.
The Host had the potential to be better than the film turned out. It might have made a better television series or mini-series so the characters could have developed better. As it is, the film will probably please fans of Meyer’s work (it follows her Twilight formula almost to the letter), but offers little more to fans of the sci-fi genre.
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