Soul-sucking aliens and lovesick humans fall flat in latest tweener sci-fi romance
If only I could’ve moved to a new planet before The Host invaded.
I’m not criticizing director Andrew Niccol (Gattaca) for making something unoriginal. His film (based on Stephanie Meyer’s book that isn’t Twilight) is about human bodies being taken over by aliens, a concept which has already made its way to the big screen in one form or another several times over the decades between Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Host. However, sans an original setup, something else has to stick, and this just sucks.
The story is set sometime in the vague future, when alien “souls,” as they’re called, have infiltrated nearly every human body in the world. Ironically, these extra-terrestrials lead much more peaceful lives than humans ever did, despite the fact that their Earthly presence is only possible because of human genocide. This contradiction might have been interesting to explore, but the plot barely touches on it.
As some of the few humans remaining, Melanie (Saoirse Ronan), her younger brother, and her boyfriend, Jared (Max Irons), struggle to elude alien capture from The Seeker (Diane Kruger). Melanie gets caught, and her body is infused with the soul of an alien called Wanderer. Usually, the human spirit dies after this procedure, but a resistant Melanie lives on in the subconscious of Wanderer, who soon empathizes with the entrapped human. Their budding friendship, while at times heartwarming, is mostly annoying. Ronan is a promising young actress, but she fails in conveying a believable voice-over, so the dialogue between Wanderer and the internal voice of Melanie plays like unintentionally funny schizophrenia.
Melanie leads Wanderer to where her remaining living family is hiding with other human holdouts, but they’re reluctant to believe she is a cohabitant of her own body. In the process of gaining their trust, Wanderer gets to know a human named Ian (Jake Abel). They fall for each other, but Melanie’s still drooling over Jared. And here we get a weird version of the famous love triangle that is the wildly popular trademark of author Meyers. I’m not sure it’s going to work with the tweens this time though. Interspecies relationships between vampires, werewolves and humans just look cooler. Everyone here just looks human (yawn); plus it’s not really a triangle since there are two young studs and technically two women fighting it out in one young head.
Luckily, the film is a lot easier to look at than it is to comprehend. The desert caves where Melanie’s family seeks refuge are stunning. It becomes an oasis not only for the film’s characters, but for the viewers too.
Smart costume choices help add to the visual appeal. All the “seeker” aliens, aka the ones in charge of killing humans, are dressed in completely white uniforms. Coupled with blue alien eyes, they exude just the right amount of creepy.
Bottom line: It’s another pretty but contrived Hollywood formula piece, with the added distraction of being a convoluted and silly love story. The human characters might have some hope for salvation, but it’s too late to save the audience.