Simply reading or hearing the statement "from Stephenie Meyer, worldwide bestselling author and creator of THE TWILIGHT SAGA" may send many of you running for he hills, but I'll admit I was more than a little curious about THE HOST, based on Meyer's most recent novel of the same name. I wanted to know if this woman who seems to have tapped into something in the teen psyche could transfer that "gift" to a science fiction story in which alien beings are injected into human hosts and take over their minds in the hope of creating a better society. (I know it sounds like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but it's not exactly since the human bodies aren't destroyed in the process.)
I also held up some hope that THE HOST might be decent because I'm a fan of both director-adaptor Andrew Niccol (GATTACA, LORD OF WAR, IN TIME) and actor Saoirse Ronan (ATONEMENT, HANNAt). Alas, with source material this threadbare, there's nothing much for either to really grab onto and build upon. Ronan plays Melanie Stryder, a member of the resistance to the alien takeover, who is taken captive while saving her brother Jamie (Chandler Canterbury). She's injected with a wispy, shiny alien, her eyes change color, and she becomes a right-thinking/acting being with one small defect—the alien in her brain (whose name is Wanda) can still hear the human Melanie, who is resisting her at every turn; normally the inhabiting alien can suppress the host's memories completely.
I'm sure in a novel, the idea of a voice within a character's head reads better than it translates into a movie. In THE HOST, Melanie just sounds like a grumpy teenager fighting with her parents. Eventually Wanda forces Melanie to lead her to the rebel hideout, a cathedral-like cave, led by her uncle Jeb (William Hurt). But rather than report the location to the alien leadership, Melanie convinces Wanda to let herself be taken captive and learn about the people who live there. The story itself is not inherently bad, but the way it's executed and the choices made in how the audience gains access Melanie's thoughts are dreadful. And we haven't even gotten to the love triangle...
Check this out: there are two handsome young men in the movie, Jared (Max Irons) and Ian (Jake Abel); and if you asked me which was which, I'd be hard pressed to care enough to tell you. One was Melanie's boyfriend pre-alien and one is slowly falling in love with Wanda. Come on! So while Wanda is contemplating kissing her gentleman caller, Melanie's voice is saying things like, "Ew, gross. Stop it, you bitch," while trying to physically stop the alien from making out with the stud. In other moments, Wanda allows Melanie's mind to come to the foreground for really no other purpose than make out with her dude. Because this shit is important when trying to change the fate of the earth.
In the meantime, a "Seeker" (Diane Kruger) is out searching for Wanda, in hopes of finding the rebel camp, and it is eventually revealed that this problem of two voices in one head is not as rare as everyone thinks. I guess somewhere buried deep in this tale is a message about not becoming part of the flock and keeping your own mind, don't do drugs, say no to premarital sex, how the hell should I know? Ronan and Hurt are actually good together, doing what they can to pull some kind of convincing performance from this achingly poor story.
Truth be told, I get more out a bad episode of "Revolution" than I did out of THE HOST, both of which seem to have similar production values. This might be a good weekend to check out your local art-house options, because THE HOST has has about as much substance as the dandelion-like aliens in its achingly poor story. I won't tell you what to see, but don't see this.