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The Host

2013 | 125 min | PG-13 | 2.39:1

The Host


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Theatrical release date

 29 March, 2013
 29 March, 2013

Country of origin

 United States

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The Host Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, March 28, 2013

Purists will likely scoff at the suggestion, but it’s hard to discount the “Twilight” DNA in the foundation of “The Host.” Both projects originate from author Stephenie Meyer, who made a killing with her sparkly vampires saga and has now moved over to sci-fi for her latest effort, once again cooking up a love triangle template to hang prolonged moments of swoon and physical contemplation on. It’s undeniably derivative and about as thrilling as “Twilight” was, returning to a droning ambiance of indecision to fashion a first step forward in a burgeoning franchise for a young audience aching for a new fixation now that Meyer’s original moneymaker has concluded.

Earth has fallen prey to the arrival of Souls, parasitic aliens who take over human bodies via surgery, creating a utopian society where poverty, war, and illness have been eradicated. With their glowing blue eyes, the Souls are easily identified, and now a creature named Wanderer has been placed into the body of human resistance fighter Melanie (Saoirse Ronan, “Hanna”), yet the girl’s brain refuses to succumb to the treatment, making herself heard as the alien begins her new life as a snitch for Seeker (Diane Kruger), an obsessive enforcer. With her mind turned into a battleground of choice, Wanderer begins to understand human needs, running away into the desert to find the rest of the resistance, reuniting with Melanie’s love, Jared (Max Irons). Finding Jeb (William Hurt) in command of a cavern sanctuary, Wanderer hopes to convince her captors that part of Melanie remains within. Growing to enjoy the company of her enemy, Wanderer’s mission is complicated when she falls for Ian (Jake Abel), while Melanie urges her host to remain with Jared, though romantic intentions are interrupted by Seeker, who scours the southwest to find the missing Soul and squash the human uprising.

As much as Meyer is repeating herself here, so is writer/director Andrew Niccol, last seen with a similarly iffy sci-fi endeavor, “In Time,” which offered the conceit of star-crossed lovers dealing with literal countdown clocks to death embedded in their arms. Dismal and lethargic, “In Time” acts as something of a prequel for “The Host,” which marches on with the same ambiance, taking the slowest route possible to foregone conclusions. It’s an inert film, shockingly so at times, attempting to lead with a mournful atmosphere of body acceptance while dodging anything approaching suspense, trusting the fires within these characters will be the hook that keeps the audience riveted. Romantic architecture is all well and good, but in Niccol’s hands, it’s gasping for air. Even with an unusual twist in the love triangle arrangement (watching Wanderer combat her own mind while two guys wait their turn to make out with the host), the picture remains leaden, without much activity to spark it to life, while Niccol’s dialogue lacks invention and punch, making monotone exchanges tedious instead of enthralling.

There’s plenty of attention to technical achievements, from the glowing eyes of the Souls to their chrome vehicles, while the human have arranged a base inside an extinct volcano, harvesting wheat with the help of solar mirrors. “The Host” is certainly something to look at, but surface delights are fleeting, in dire need of a narrative drive that fills out the world in full. Niccol fumbles action beats with lousy gunplay and the rare chase sequence, and his command of basic physics in terms of car accidents could use some work. Considering the story concerns the takeover of the human race, one would think a surplus amount of excitement would be there for the taking, yet Niccol and Meyer would rather linger on lifelessness, laboring to make bland characters meaningful without the benefit of activity. Thankfully, Ronan is skilled enough to breathe a little life into the picture with a credible struggle of warring duality, making the lead character passably engaging even without a dramatic arc that demands attention. Wanderer’s quest to juggle love interests and protect her kind from crude surgical extraction attempts has potential to be provocative and even sinister (the movie is interestingly pro-alien), but the production seems genuinely fearful of turning this effort into anything more than a dewy tale of deliverance, with a side portion of hunks.

The conclusion sets up a sequel, though puzzling plotting in the climax takes the sting out of the cliffhanger, introducing a crucial character haphazardly, almost negating Wanderer’s entire journey as a peaceful alien. Questions are left unanswered, but I’d be more comfortable with the confusion if “The Host” actually offered a moment of tension. Much like “Twilight,” the feature seems to exist only to fuel daydreams, not to provide a challenging cinematic experience.

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Diane Kruger, William Hurt, Max Irons, Rachel Roberts, Marcus Lyle Brown
Director: Andrew Niccol

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