After the success of Twilight, it was little surprise that a movie version of Stephenie Meyer’s The Host was put into the works. It seemed to bode well when Truman Show and In Time scribe Andrew Niccol was hired to write and direct, as he’s got a good track record when it comes to somewhat cerebral sci-fi. However the end result is rather underwhelming – not bad, but far from great.
The world has been taken over by aliens that inhabit humans and hijack their bodies – with their piercing blue eyes ensuring there’s no doubt who is a host and who isn’t. Virtually the entire population has been possessed by these beings, with just a few free humans remaining. Melanie Stryder (Saoirse Ronan) is one of those humans, but when she is nearly captured she attempts to kill herself so that the aliens can’t find the location of the other people she lives with. It doesn’t work though and she wakes up as Wanderer, an alien who has inhabited her body.
The original consciousness is supposed to disappear – although the creatures can slowly access the original human’s memories – but Melanie isn’t about to give up and starts to talk to Wanderer and fight back against her presence in her body, as well as trying to get her to see that what her race is doing is wrong. Slowly Wanderer begins to come round to Melanie’s way of thinking, eventually heading out into the desert to find the unoccupied humans Melanie lives with. However they’ve learned a bitter hatred of the aliens and it’s not going to be easy for Wanderer to convince them that she’s on their side. It doesn’t help either that her presence brings danger, as the relentless Seeker (Diane Kruger) wants her back, and also to wipe out the last few humans.
It’s a decent premise but somewhat difficult to make work on film. Part of the problem is the idea of having two consciousnesses in one body, as it means a lot of the movie is Saoirse Ronan talking to herself in her own head, which quickly becomes tiring and feels inherently un-cinematic. I also wonder whether there was a lot more footage shot than we have here, as even at 125 minutes it feels as if we’re getting the highlights version of this story. It feels like Niccols is keen to get into some of the more interesting, philosophical aspects of the story, such as exploring the idea of having two beings in one body, especially when each falls for a different person.
However it tries to cram so much in that it doesn’t have much time to really look at anything properly, and with rather basic characters it’s difficult to get too hooked up in things. Melanie being involved with Jared (Max Irons) while Wanderer has feelings for Ian (Jake Abel) is potentially great, but it’s played in a rather insipid way – obviously trying to ape Twilight – that any real potential is squandered.
That’s not to say it’s a bad watch though, as it’s decently entertaining, even if it’s difficult to escape the feeling this could have been much more than it is. Indeed if the film had backed off so overtly trying to be the sci-fi Twilight, it would have been better off. It certainly works better when it’s a thriller than when it’s a rather twee teen love story.
It looks good though, with the clean, crisp, chrome aesthetics of the hosts contrasted with the harsh desert environment where the remaining humans live. Indeed it’s such a great looking world you can’t help but wish more interesting things were happening in it. The Blu-ray certainly shows off how good it looks though.
There are only a few special features, but if you liked the movie they’re worth a look, with an okay ‘making of…’ featurette, some deleted scenes and an audio commentary.
Overall Verdict: Nice to look at and there’s a lot of potential in the ideas behind this sci-fi story, but in trying to cram too much in and so slavishly following the tone of Twilight, it ends up feeling like we’re skimming over the surface, which makes it difficult to really care.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac