Review: The Host / Cert: 12A / Director: Andrew Niccol / Screenplay: Andrew Niccol / Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Jake Abel, Max Irons, William Hurt, Chandler Canterbrury, William Fisher / Release Date: Out Now
Stephanie Meyer, the modern day Frankenstein who created the abominable and much derided Twilight franchise, turns her attention to the rich world of science fiction in this ghastly, cloying teen dream alien invasion flick based on her 1998 book which, it turns out, was a dry run for the angsty themes and love triangles of her later vampire saga. Science-fiction fans will find little of interest here – and certainly nothing especially original – but teenage One Direction fans who constantly dream of kissing boys will thrill to the sub-girl’s comic picture strip dialogue and the brooding non-threatening hunks who pad out the faceless cast.
Earth has, we’re told, been overrun by body-invading aliens called Souls whose influence has created a bland and uniform society where everyone’s nice, there’s no such thing as war and, it seems, chrome sports cars, bikes and helicopters are de rigueur. Human survivors are few and far between but when Melanie (Ronan) in captured and subsumed by an alien called Wanderer, she finds that she still exists inside her Host’s mind and she/they eventually stumble across a nest of human survivors living in a cave in the desert. Here, inevitably, the Wanderer and Melanie each fall in love with a different boy and with Melanie ever-present as an echoey voice-over the drama descends into little more than two hormonal teenage girls in the playground shrieking “I hate you kissing him!” for the better part of two long hours.
Andrew Niccol has decent form in creating reasonably convincing dystopian future worlds (Gattaca, In Time) and he just about manages to pull it off again here with the occasionally eerie sameyness of the possessed humans, especially in one effective scene where Melanie visits a supermarket (blandly named ‘Store’) where all the stock has identical functional labelling and no one really cares if customers walk out without paying. But the threat of the pursuing aliens determined to catch and convert the last of the humans never amounts to much – the film’s much more concerned with all the kissing and hand-holding – and the human rebels hiding underground are so feeble it’s hard to tell the difference between them and the doe-eyed aliens. William Hurt’s rebel leader Jeb Stryder provides one moment of unintentional humour when he remarks that Wanderer’s name is too long: “I’ll call you Wanda” he says – yeah, ‘cos that’s like really so much shorter than Wanderer.
The Host is nothing like as offensively inane as the Twilight saga and in Saoirse Ronan it does at least boast a talented and likeable lead who does what she can with lame material. The best we can hope for is that The Host will encourage the screaming tweenies it’s aimed at to seek out more challenging science fiction which says a little more about the human condition than the ‘it’s nice to kiss and hold hands with boys’ message of this dull, plodding and largely lifeless effort.
Expected Rating: 5 out of 10