The tonal combinations in “The Host” are rather unique; especially considering such heavy science-fiction settings generally don’t surface in romantic teen dramas. Unfortunately, the creativity quickly gives way to annoying gimmicks, unconvincing dialogue and inadvertently hilarious situations. The concept of two minds inhabiting one body works on paper (and perhaps in outlandish comedies), but the grating voiceovers that occur in the film only work to trivialize the heartfelt dramaturgy and serious themes of love and sacrifice that attempt to surface. Copious early flashbacks and nonsensical character motives frustrate further, while investing in the protagonists enough to care about the zealous amorosity that eventually appears becomes a monumental hurdle indeed.
Earth has found peace unlike anything it’s ever experienced – but at what cost? When the world’s inhabitants are taken over by an invading alien life force that assumes its host’s soul and steadily erases their identity, the planet appears to have achieved tranquility. But for those that refuse to succumb, death may be the only answer. Melanie Stryder (Saoirse Ronan) is one such rebel, and in an attempt to protect her younger brother Jamie (Chandler Canterbury) and her lover Jared Howe (Max Irons), she throws herself from a building after being discovered by alien enforcers led by The Seeker (Diane Kruger). Not dying from the fall, Melanie is implanted with an ancient alien being known as the Wanderer, whose job is to unravel the girl’s memories and reveal the location of any surviving humans. But both The Seeker and Wanderer underestimate Melanie’s willpower, and soon the resolute young girl has convinced her sympathetic brain-parasite to help her reunite with her loved ones and fight back against their relentless pursuers.
“We’ve been invaded by an alien race,” claims the narrator as the movie opens. The infrequently interesting science-fiction themes in “The Host” are immediately and colossally overwhelmed by a preoccupation with whimsical romantic teen fantasies. The project could have been redeemable had the entire premise been transplanted into a darker, weightier environment, or had it been treated with the respect of an appropriate tone (think “Children of Men” or “Dark City”). Author Stephenie Meyer’s unmistakable infatuation with love triangles and meandering embraces amongst characters from worlds apart once again overtakes any originality – here, the momentarily creepy idea of an alien occupation of the mind. Multiple personalities battling for supremacy, lucidity infected by thought control, and a (perhaps unintentional) nod to “Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde” take a prompt backseat to mushy dialogue and plenty of PG-13 kissing. Unexpectedly, none of the guys take their shirts off.
While it starts with brief thrills, the film quickly and completely loses its direction. It becomes preachy at times, annoying at others, and most offensively, repeatedly contradictory. One of the major plot points centers on dual intellects inhabiting Melanie’s body, which is specifically kept a secret due to fellow refugees’ likely disbelief. But they all exist in a world described by savior Jeb (William Hurt) as “science-fiction.” What exactly would anyone not be willing to believe? And immediately upon recovering Melanie’s body, Jeb proceeds to show the seeming infiltrator the inner workings of their hidden stronghold, including how they get light and water, a layout of the underground structure, and even history on the extinct volcano origins. She’s also allowed to wander around unguarded. At least they didn’t hand her a map – but why does no one bother to interrogate her? These revolutionaries have survived years of warfare by blindly trusting the enemy? Reason and rationale so suspiciously elude “The Host” that it will be amusing to see if “Twilight” fans succumb to the similarities Meyer’s story has drudged up and flock to see this borderline unwatchable mess. At least Lotus Cars, with their conspicuous product placement, will likely increase sales when fans want to feel like they’re a part of this potential franchise (Meyer’s hopes to turn the series into a trilogy).
– The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)