'The Host': Fantasy checklist for a prom
For her next trick played on pop culture, "Twilight Saga" novelist Stephenie Meyer went for the old body snatchers routine. You know, aliens invading not only Earth but Earthling bodies, a recurring sci-fi idea since Kevin McCarthy screamed "You're next!" into the camera 57 years ago.
Meyer's story, "The Host," is different, though, and worse for it. It really doesn't seem scary or even bad that aliens are snatching human bodies. A prologue informs us that the invaders, an itinerant intergalactic species called "Souls" has already taken over almost all human life forms. The result is a planet where people are nice to each other, polite without hesitation and averse to killing.
The Souls and their hunter subspecies Seekers apparently spruced up their new homes, because there isn't a single physically unattractive being in Andrew Niccol's movie based on Meyer's novel. They have fluorescent blue eyes, wear clinically chic white fashion, travel in Mylar-shiny sports cars and helicopters, and are infallibly genial even when humans threaten to kill them. Where do we sign up to be Souls?
The only obvious drawback to being a Soul is when the snatched body isn't willing to give up. That means the human's voice keeps rattling around your head, protesting what you're doing and offering unwanted advice. That's so human.
It's especially annoying when the voice belongs to a teenager like Melanie Stryker (Saoirse Ronan), a Louisiana girl with no trace of Southern accent and an abundance of spunk. Ronan is too good to be stuck talking to herself for two hours like she's on Bluetooth.
Subversives like Melanie are sought by Seekers and their eponymous ice queen leader (Diane Kruger).
The closest that Niccol comes to horror in "The Host" is by diving into the post-adolescent romance that is Meyer's specialty. Melanie/Wendy attracts the affections of two young humans who have dodged becoming Souls: Jared (Max Irons, son of Jeremy) and Ian (Jake Abel), creating the first three-person romantic rectangle I can recall in movies.
"The Host" doesn't strive for social allegory. If anything it's merely a teenage girl's fantasy checklist for prom: Which "me" should I be, which guy should I go with, and can we get one of those shiny sports cars to drive?
"The Host" is rated PG-13 for violence, brief sexual content.
Movie Review ...
THE HOST (PG-13). Directed by Andrew Niccol; screenplay by Andrew Niccol, based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer. At Beacon Cinema (Pittsfield), Berkshire Mall Cinema 10 (Lanesborough) and Nourth Adams Movieplex 8. 2 hours 5 minutes
WITH: Saoirse Ronan, Diane Kruger, William Hurt, Max Irons, Jake Abel, Frances Fisher, Chandler Canterbury, Boyd Holbrook