‘The Host’ with the most? Hardly

Star Tribune (Minneapolis)March 29, 2013 

  • IF YOU GO

    What: “The Host”

    Rating: PG-13

    Where: College 9, UEC Theater 12

    Info: thehostthefilm.com

Stephenie Meyer achieved youth culture fame overnight with her supernatural “Twilight” novels and films. But immortality? As the makers of Livestrong yellow wristbands or “High School Musical” can attest, that’s harder to come by.

Meyer’s latest, “The Host,” blends teen romance and science fiction. In its strange new world, advanced, peaceable extraterrestrials have commandeered the minds of most of Earth’s human population. This case of global possession has a benign face. Earth 2.0 is without war, hunger, greed and cancer. Humans retain their physical form, dress impeccably, drive silver luxury sports cars and live in elegant mid-century modernist digs. Unfortunately, the aliens want to ease Homo sapiens aside permanently, convinced they can do a better job of running the planet.

An alien intelligence named Wanderer inhabits Earth girl Melanie Stryder. Even after she’s implanted with her new “soul,” defiant Melanie (Saoirse Ronan) doesn’t knuckle under. Her will and awareness survive, gradually revealing thoughts and memories to Wanderer (Wanda for short). Like mismatched bunkies at sleepaway camp, they squabble, then learn to coexist, ultimately forming an emotional connection.

Evading the alien security chief Seeker (Diane Kruger), Melanie/Wanda discover remote caves sheltering the remaining humans. Among them are Melanie’s boyfriend Jared (Max Irons) and his fellow freedom fighter Ian (Jake Abel), who falls for Wanda. With two identities in a single body, our heroines find themselves in a two-way love triangle, then a three-person love quadrangle.

Writer-director Andrew Niccol (“The Truman Show,” “Gattaca”) does a capable job with the physical aspect of the production. But there’s only so much value that Niccol’s slick presentation can add to Meyer’s shallow material. Ace stuntwork notwithstanding, the movie lacks a sense of danger and urgency. The emotional groundwork for a compelling conflict is missing. Given that the aliens are generally a peace-loving lot, their pursuit of the rebels never ignites much anxiety.

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