Fans expecting another entry in the Twilight series might be surprised by The Host, the latest big-screen adaptation of a Stephanie Meyer novel, and the first such film not dealing with brooding teenage vampires.
This story from Meyer is more mature, dealing with an alien abduction plot in a way that’s more cerebral and contemplative than might be expected by those on either Team Edward or Team Jacob.
However, while it presents a mildly provocative scenario of contemporary alien possession, its intriguing concepts don’t seem to have the same emotional impact on screen that they do on the printed page.
The story takes place in a world where parasitic aliens have almost wiped out the human race through the use of possession and mind control. One of the last surviving humans is Melanie (Saoirse Ronan), whose body is taken over by the Wanderer, a soul that inhabits her mind and tries to infiltrate her memories.
That’s when Melanie begins to fight back, convincing the unseen Wanderer to help her reunite with her loved ones — a group of holdouts led by her grizzled father (William Hurt) — amid this clash of humans and souls, Seekers and Healers.
The screenplay by director Andrew Niccol (In Time) is forced to juggle several tricky narrative elements, including an awkward internal dialogue between Melanie and the Wanderer, as well as a series of flashbacks that becomes tedious.
The film shifts from a character-driven science-fiction drama to more of a combination road movie and chase picture. At least Niccol is a genre veteran who brings visual flair to the material, with help from some sleek costumes and scenic desert landscapes.
The versatile Ronan (Atonement) brings depth to a complex performance as the courageous and resourceful hero, even if her character ultimately is more bland than charismatic.
The film is deliberately paced, especially in the first hour, and winds up more pretentious and melodramatic than thought-provoking. The result is edgy on the surface but a cheesy love story at its core, complete with longing glances and music swells.
The Host deals with familiar themes of compassion, faith and reconciliation, and contains plenty of metaphysical mumbo-jumbo that doesn’t provide the same thrill for the brain that the film’s shiny chrome cars do for the eyes.
Rated PG-13, 125 minutes.