The Host

Fundamentally flawed from the beginning, THE HOST becomes terminally ill when the premise of an alien invasion takes a back seat, only to be replaced by an inter-galactic ‘love conquers all’ theme.

Adapted from Stephenie Meyer’s novel of the same name, The Host is a sci-fi film with a vague premise that asks viewers to imagine our world after an alien invasion. On a grand scale, this film had the potential to ask “what if?” questions, especially if you have seen any or all versions of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers. But once you get past the opening act, it won’t be long before you realize that at the core, this film is a silly romance for high school co-eds and sorority sisters.

Written and directed by Andrew Niccol, the plot is set in the future where a vast majority of the human population are hosts to an alien species called “Souls”. These are alien entities residing in human bodies but stripping the human hosts of emotions and memories. We don’t get to see the initial invasion or the part where I presume NASA decodes an intergalactic message that reads ‘we come in peace’ just before calling the Whitehouse and stating the cinematically overdone “We have a problem”. But in keeping with Meyer’s tendency for bloodless melodrama, Niccol skips forward and begins the narrative where Earth is virtually pristine — no wars, no famine, no pollution, no disease, no lies and no corruption. As good as this sounds, a tiny band of human resistance exists somewhere in the Utah dessert with no intention of being ‘turned’. The Seeker (Diane Kruger), an authoritative alien in human form knows this. So when Melanie Stryder (Saoirse Ronan) is captured, surgically induced with an alien parasite and renamed Wanderer, Seeker expects to learn where the surviving bands of humans are hiding. Yet, somehow, Melanie doesn’t let go even as Wanderer tries to take control.

Inevitably, Melanie and Wanderer become BFFs (best-friends-forever), before leading Seeker to a near-extinct volcano ingenuously improvised for self-sustenance. This is where Melanie’s family resides but also much of the film’s melodramatic romance, watered down action and huge deficiencies in logic. Just when you start to question how intelligent or powerful the alien race really is, Meyer’s signature love triangle takes centre stage; only this time you get two love triangles for the price of one! Although unintentionally humorous, this somehow works in Niccol’s favour. There is a lot of contradictory cross-talk between Melanie and Wanderer (who is re-christened Wanda) when it comes to ogling hunks at the volcano but this doesn’t help the narrative from steadily descending into a lumbering snooze fest. There is a little bit of action involving all manner of chrome gilded vehicles and I suspect this is how Niccol preferred to depict the luminous nature of this particular alien race, but that’s about it. If sci-fi action is what you dig, you are best suited for 2013’s share of alien invasion movies like Oblivion or  Pacific Rim.

On the upside, The Host is marginally better than the brazen Twilight franchise and thanks to Niccol and Ronan, Stephanie Meyer’s Melanie has more soul (excuse the pun) when compared to Kristen Stewart’s Bella Swan. No doubt there. However, there is a lot lacking given the director’s panache in depicting the innate values of a human being’s individuality and identity in society (think Gattaca and The Truman Show). Fundamentally flawed from the beginning, The Host becomes terminally ill when the premise of an alien invasion takes a back seat, only to be replaced by a human teen teaching a 1000-year-old alien how to kiss a guy. For what it boils down to, you are left with so much kinky fantasy that I wholly recommend this movie for an all-girl teenage slumber party. Even so, you can be damn sure Sigourney Weaver won’t be attending.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

About Lloyd Bayer

Besides his passion for travelling, photography and scuba diving, Lloyd is a prolific film critic having contributed hundreds of film reviews to web and print journals, including IMDb and local daily Khaleej Times.