Teen sci-fi book adaptation is monstrously bad
By Tim Pompey 04/04/2013
Directed by Andrew Niccol
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Max Irons, Jake Abel, William Hurt
2 hr. 5 mins.
I wonder if there’s something that gets lost in translation between Stephenie Meyer’s stories and the movies that result.Not having read her books, I can’t speak for the quality of her writing. As for the movies, while the Twilight series had some decent moments amid all the googly-eyed angst of its lovers, The Host is so flat and uninspired I find it hard to believe that a Meyer book could actually have birthed something this insipid.
If I were the book’s author, I would demand the producers remove my name from the credits. Then I would hightail it out into the wilderness for five years and hope nobody recognized me when I returned to civilization.
Then again, I recognize that the film is not aimed at me, and its producers probably couldn’t care less what I think. Meyer writes books for teenage and young adult consumption. She combines the overwhelming passion of adolescent minds with the bright-eyed wonderment of the otherworldly.
I get that and I’m willing to cut her some slack. I watched all five of the Twilight films because there was always a nod to adulthood in the background, plus enough interesting ideas to keep me (reluctantly) coming back.
But Host is missing something crucial, and here is my point about adapting Meyer’s books to film. Simply put, this particular screenplay is terrible, and without a decent script to work with, everything else in the story seems off kilter.
When the film opens, Melanie (Saoirse Ronan) is hiding out from a group of alien invaders who have attached themselves to the minds of most of the earth’s inhabitants. Melanie is one of the few humans who have escaped them.
When she is discovered, Melanie runs through a plate-glass window in a high-rise building in an attempt to commit suicide and avoid revealing the location of her brother and boyfriend. Unfortunately, she survives, is implanted with an alien, and transforms into the Wanderer, the host who informs other aliens about Melanie’s memories. All of this is an attempt by the aliens to track down the remaining human survivors.
The kicker is that Melanie’s voice remains alive within her own body, and eventually drives the Wanderer out into the desert in an attempt to either kill her off or find Melanie’s friends and family. After they do find her, it gets really problematic. She’s an alien. She’s Melanie. She’s family. She’s dangerous.
Things get really confusing when the love story kicks in. Melanie the voice is still in love with Jared (Max Irons), her previous boyfriend, but the alien Wanderer, aka Wanda, falls in love with Ian (Jake Abel). Emotional bickering ensues. Things get a little tense in the household.
Despite a notable effort from Ronan and William Hurt, as Uncle Jeb, this film just never gets off the ground. Director Andrew Niccol, whose previous work includes Gattaca and The Truman Show, is hamstrung by what could only be described as B-level cable material and by actors who recite their lines as if they’re reading them from cue cards.
Host feels like the first attempt by an adolescent screenwriter to tell a sci-fi story. Even worse is having to listen to a character who physically disappears and returns as a voice inside her previous character’s head. It’s a stretch and, frankly, deeply annoying.
For those who reveled in the back-and-forth love triangle in Twilight, this is more of the same. There are plenty of hunky bodies plus the earnest appeal of Ronan’s extra-shiny blue eyes. But for those who demand a little something more from their movies, Host is a big tease — visually appealing but about as bland as a flat piece of blank white paper.