Stephenie Meyer knows how to do one thing correctly and that’s get her characters to talk...and talk and talk and talk and talk. The problem is that talking, conversing, and chitchatting ad-nauseum does not a compelling film make. So it’s disappointing to say that the film based on her popular follow-up to the "Twilight" series, "The Host" has a great sci-fi set-up and then nothing but endless conversations about what would be more compelling to watch rather than listen to.
Adapted for the screen and directed by Andrew Niccol ("Gattaca"), the film opens after Earth has been taken over by these (quite beautiful) parasites that then invade the bodies of humans and take over. They then dress in lovely whites and beiges, have stunning crystalline eyes, and drive chrome plated Lotus Evoras. They have altered Earth so that plant-life thrives, everyone trusts each other, and there is no war. Stores are there for you to get what you need, not to make a profit. In fact, a store is literally called "store." So in essence, these aliens have made Earth better - more inhabitable. But they’ve destroyed humanity, essentially slaughtering the human race by replacing our souls with theirs.
However, there is a small batch of humans who haven’t been taken over. One of them is teenager Melanie (Saoirse Ronan) who journeys through the world with her little brother Jamie (Chandler Canterbury) and boyfriend Jared (Max Irons). But while hiding out, they are caught by the Seekers - the sect of aliens that hunt down any remaining humans to take them over. Melanie is caught and eventually infected with the parasite. But... Melanie’s will is strong. Why? We don’t know. They never explain that, or how she survived a multiple-story fall out a window. But strong she is and soon enough Melanie is able to "talk" to her implanted parasite called "Wanderer." Mostly she just yells at her via voice-over (a terrible device) and sometimes is able to control her actions. Wanderer’s purpose is to search Melanie’s memories in order to find out where the other humans are. But Melanie convinces Wanderer not to do this. Instead, she wants to find the other humans in order to warn them. So the battle for Melanie’s body rages on until eventually, Wanderer and Melanie become sort-of besties.
This occurs once they run into Melanie’s Uncle Jeb (William Hurt) and Aunt Maggie (Frances Fisher) and the rest of the resistance. But Melanie’s telltale eyes give her away as having been taken over and they aren’t sure what to make of her. They take her back to The Cave - a huge Cathedral like structure in the rocks of the desert (read: Utah) and ponder her fate. Jamie reunites with sister/non-sister as does Jared. But Jared doesn’t trust this invader and wants her dead. He is convinced by his buddy Ian (Jake Abel) to leave Wanderer/Melanie alone so they can figure out if she’ll be useful. Meanwhile, Uncle Jeb has renamed Wanderer "Wanda," which is most likely the result of Stephenie Meyers not wanting to type Wanderer over and over again. Ian falls for Wanda, Max and Jamie figure out Melanie is still "inside" herself, and the Seekers - headed by Diane Kruger - are after Wanda for being a traitor.
But mostly, everyone talks a lot. Sure, there are some cool glowworms in The Cave and a huge wheat field, plus some nifty bedrooms, but really all they want to do is talk. Sometimes Melanie disappears and has to be coaxed out. Why? Who knows? But the coaxing is the most humorous part as this incorporates the awful love quadrangle where both Jake and Ian are required to kiss Melanie - both when she’s Melanie and when she’s Wanda. It’s all a bit date-rapey and awful. Judging by the chuckles in the audience, it wasn’t really working for anyone.
And that’s what’s so unfortunate about this film. The initial concept is interesting. But don’t expect the audience to feel badly for an alien species that has killed - EVERYONE. There’s some nonsense about forgiving and treating the parasites with "love," but it’s nonsensical. Not to mention some of the alien implantation rules don’t make sense. And don’t even look to the ending of the film to make much sense or make any of the characters look good. There is a nice moment with Saoirse Ronan (who is perfectly good here) that should have ended the film. Instead, we get a ten-minute tag that basically negates Wanda’s original wishes and sets up the inevitable sequel.
The love interests, Jake and Ian, are interchangeable and bland, Hurt and Fisher have nothing to do but give sage old-man advice and argue respectively, and Kruger is fine, but her character arc isn’t defined enough to make her all that interesting. The only one that saves face is Ronan who proves a capable performer and elevates the film as much as her slight frame can.
And there’s that talking. Every time they cut from a conversation scene we hope for some action. Some twist. Something. But no, it’s just a set up for more talking. After a terrific opening twenty-minutes, the film screeches to a halt and the rest of the two-hour running time consists of the audience trying to stay awake.
Andrew Niccol does what he can, but his script is weak (blame the source material) and while the film looks good, it could really just be the two-hour pilot for a show on the CW. The most notable thing about the film is a gorgeous score by Antonio Pinto that elevates the film far more than it has the right to.
Melanie/Wanda :: Saoirse Ronan
Jared :: Max Irons
Ian :: Jake Abel
Uncle Jeb :: William Hurt
Jamie :: Chandler Canterbury
Maggie :: Frances Fisher
Seeker/Lacey :: Diane Kruger
Kyle :: Boyd Holbrook
Nate :: Bokeem Woodbine
Doc :: Scott Lawrence
Trevor Stryder :: J.D. Evermore
Soul Fleur :: Rachel Roberts
Soul Anshu :: Shyaam Karra
Soul Winters :: Brent Williams
Seeker Reed :: Stephen Rider
Seeker Song :: Jaylen Moore
Seeker Sands :: Stephen Conroy
Aaron :: Lee Hardee
Brandt :: Mustafa Harris
Seeker Hawke :: Tatanka Means
Screenwriter, Andrew Niccol; Producer, Nick Wechsler; Producer, Steve Schwartz; Producer, Paula Schwartz; Producer, Stephanie Meyer; Executive Producer, Jim Seibel; Executive Producer, Bill Johnson; Executive Producer, Marc Butan; Executive Producer, Claudia üemhuber; Executive Producer, Ray Angelic; Cinematographer, Roberto Schaefer; Production Design, Andy Nicholson; Costume Designer, Erin Benach; Original Music, Antonio Pinto; Art Director, Beat Frutiger; Set Decoration, Cindy Jeunesse.