The “Twilight” series may be over, but Stephenie Meyer is not done reaping the benefits of its popularity. The author’s supposed attempt at reaching an adult audience has found its way into theaters.
“The Host,” the latest adaptation of her work, is unfortunately not that different from her “Twilight” stories. I’m not exactly sure why some in the press have tagged this film an adult “Twilight” given that Meyer pretty much just replaces vampires with aliens. But never mind.
“The Host” is centered on the concept of an alien invasion of Earth, in which the alien life forms take over the bodies of humans. The concept from the alien standpoint is to study our behaviors, which they do not hold in high regard. The aliens, for some crazy reason, seem to find us humans volatile and self-destructive. But never mind, again.
Anyway, certain rebel humans hold out as fugitives. One such Earthling is Melanie (Saoirse Ryan), who when cornered by “seekers” (like alien FBI agents) attempts to jump from a building to die. Needless to say she doesn’t, or we wouldn’t have much of a movie. Instead, the aliens inoculate Melanie with a “soul,” an alien life form known as Wanderer (also portrayed by Ryan). Human existence can persevere mentally after a soul has taken over, the story says, but this phenomenon is rare. One particular seeker (Diane Kruger) suspects something is amiss right away and follows Wanderer constantly.
Here’s a tip: if you are not of fan of internal exposition this film may not be for you. Melanie and Wanderer converse internally throughout the film. All of this, of course, is on Ryan’s shoulders to make work.
It appears Melanie can make Wanderer do more than she expected, and forces her hand into a search for her love, Jared (Max Irons), and her little brother, Jamie (Chandler Cantenbury). Melanie believes they are out in desert in an underground location forged by her Uncle Jeb (William Hurt). She is right, of course, and by sheer luck they do arrive, but not to much fan-fare. Although the body may be Melanie’s, humans know the bright blue eyes are the sign of alien take-over. For whatever reason — perhaps nostalgia, perhaps seeking information — Jeb keeps her in the compound.
Mistrusted and beaten many times, Wanderer never seeks to escape because she has adopted Melanie’s emotions toward Jared and Jacob. But she also develops feelings for another resistance refugee, Ian (Jake Abel); or, rather, Wanderer develops an affinity toward him while Melanie despises him.
Yes, if you thought Stephenie Meyer couldn’t amp up the love triangles from the “Twilight” series, forget it. “The Host” has two girls in the same body seeking two different boys. You have to love science fiction, especially when it’s done Stephanie Meyer-style.
But there does need to be some action and drama, and we get that when humans go amongst the living for provisions and the seeker, who still is searching for Wanderer after her disappearance.
This is not brilliant material by Meyer, but neither was “Twilight.” The author does, however, have an almost uncanny knack for making some bizarre John Hughes-meets-Roger Corman-type scenarios; and, truth be told, this film is better than I may give it credit for, for two great reasons. One is director Andrew Nichol (“Gattaca”), who manages to deliver some really fantastic visuals and cinematography to keep it from being nothing more than a television mini-series. Nichols knows how to deliver drama in the sci-fi realm, and that plays out well here.
The other thing “The Host” has going for it is the actors. Here it is mostly just Ryan, but William Hurt does his best in this flick to pick up some scenes. In the end, though, it all comes to Ryan, and to her credit she rescues what could have been a dreadful film and actually elevates it to being a pretty good one. Balancing two characters in your head and playing them both at the same time can’t be easy. She has shown talent in the past, and here prevents a film from being a total disaster.
Perhaps she is from another world.