It is the not-too-distant future; parasitic aliens have invaded the Earth. These aliens, called "Souls," look like the dust residue that accumulates in the bristles of a broom after an hour of sweeping, but colored a luminous white and silver: genus body-snatcher, phylum eerily benevolent. Souls do not lie, cheat, or steal. They do not kill each other. They share all goods in common, and none seek for private gain.

Souls would be completely peaceful if it weren't for the last pesky humans trying to remain alive—like Melanie (Saoirse Ronan), her little brother Jamie (Chandler Canterbury), and her boyfriend Jared (Max Irons), who are heading for the safety of an uncle's desert cabin.

(l-r) Jake Abel as Ian and Saoirse Ronan as Melanie/Wanda in 'The Host'

(l-r) Jake Abel as Ian and Saoirse Ronan as Melanie/Wanda in 'The Host'

The Seekers are the Souls' police force, and when Melanie goes scavenging, one captures her. The Seeker (Diane Kruger) puts a Soul named Wanda (also played by Saoirse Ronan) into Melanie's body, who tries to comb Melanie's memories for clues to the location of other survivors. Melanie survives the possession and remains as a voice inside Melanie/Wanda's body, using the strength of her will to resist. Wanda's control is tenuous—Melanie can struggle against her mental bonds and regain physical control for brief moments.

As Wanda and Melanie cohabit the same body, they start to learn about each other—and when the Seeker threatens to remove Wanda from Melanie's body unless she starts discovering new information soon, Wanda decides to flee her kind and go join Melanie's family in the desert. She discovers that the last bastion of humanity lives in a complex network of underground caves. Melanie's uncle Jeb (William Hurt) leads the humans, and he protects Wanderer from skeptical survivors and tries to integrate her into the community.

Jared, Melanie's boyfriend, is suspicious of Wanda—reasonable, given she possesses his girlfriend's body. But good-natured human boy Ian (Jake Abel) is wowed by the alien and falls in love with her. Wanda begins to develop feelings for Ian in return, which angers Melanie, since she still loves Jared. This sticky love quadrangle throws the camp into jeopardy. And all the while, Seeker is hot on Wanda's trail.

It's not the plot so much as everything else that's the problem with The Host, an adaptation of the bestselling sci-fi romance by Twilight author Stephenie Meyer. The film unfolds at an unyielding, monotone pace, set to a backdrop of synthesizers and violins that bludgeon you with "poignance" and "meaning." Ninety percent of the lines are delivered in the same slow, deliberate lilt, and even the chase scenes (which make up three quarters of the trailer and about one twentieth of the film) play as a kind of disembodied reverie. It's all sticky, slow molasses—a form that doesn't seem to match the content.

But the problems really come from the inherent difficulty of adapting a book for the screen. Novels and films have their own set of strengths and weaknesses: in print, you can express internal struggle in a way that a movie can't, while a film has the benefit of employing images that a novel can't match. Book-to-film adaptations can work well, but only when these differences are respected.

But in The Host, characters rarely have relationships or experience emotions on-screen: these developments are largely just announced, rendering their actions unjustified. For instance: why on earth would Ian abandon his misgivings about a glowing dust ball possessing the body of his friend's girlfriend—a member of a race who presumably hunted down and did the same thing to his entire family—and select Wanda as the prime candidate for some one-flesh union? While a book can give all kinds of insight into his motivations, in the movie the apex of their courtship is sharing a bottle of water and having conversations in which the only line that approaches flirtation is the pun "I'm in two minds about this."

There are a lot of interesting themes here: the ghost in the machine versus mind-body unity, the often-different desires of the flesh and the spirit, the eternal questions about love and acceptance. But I'm not sure that what it has to say on all those things is good.

What keeps Melanie alive through the possession process is the burning strength of her love for Jared and Jamie. Hasn't humanity (and especially this film's target demographic) been barraged enough with the idea that love is primarily an emotion, something to be swept up in and a fire to be kept burning as long as possible? And when one mind/body (no matter how many personalities that mind has) feels that emotion for more than one person, is the answer to indulge in both? These ideas have dangerous implications. These ideas could be treated with care, but here, what we're left with delivers nothing close to an out-of-body-experience.

The Family Corner

The Host is rated PG-13 for some sensuality and violence, but only barely merits the rating. A flashback shows of two characters kissing in bed. It is implied that they are at least topless, but sheets obscure most of the flesh, and the main focus is on the man's shoulders. There are a few action scenes with some blood, including one where a man gets shot. Some cadavers are shown in a hospital context. Two characters drive their truck into a wall rather than be captured by the aliens.

The Host
Our Rating
1½ Stars - Weak
Average Rating
(20 user ratings)ADD YOURSHelp
Mpaa Rating
PG-13 (For some sensuality and violence)
Directed By
Andrew Niccol
Run Time
2 hours 5 minutes
Saoirse Ronan, Max Irons, Jake Abel
Theatre Release
March 29, 2013 by Open Road Films
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