You can visualise Stephenie Meyer doing the math: how many ways can a love triangle be worked, so that everyone involved is a good guy? Twilight’s already done and dusted the woman-vampire-werewolf thing, but wait a minute, wasn’t there a film called Invasion of the Body Snatchers where aliens took over human bodies?
Never mind that the Nicole Kidman remake was an unmitigated disaster, let’s do an emo version. Ergo, we have two minds residing in one beautiful teen’s body and each can have a different love interest — with no blame attached to anyone.
Oh, oh, and could we do those eye-colour things that make it so much easier to sort out who is what? So while vampires in Twilight had red-hot eyes, the possessed humans in The Host have icy blue ones.
In director Andrew Niccol’s The Host — based on Meyer’s 2008 book of the same name — most of humanity has been eradicated, thanks to their bodies being taken over by an alien race, the Souls. Only a handful of humans such as Melanie (Saoirse Ronan) and her brother Jamie (Chandler Canterbury) seem to have escaped. Unfortunately, Melanie is captured by a vengeful Seeker (Diane Kruger); and a Soul — a glowing amalgamation of fibre optic tentacles — is inserted into her.
The Soul in question, called Wanderer, should technically have taken over the body at this stage, but Melanie is a fighter and refuses to let go. She tricks the Wanderer into going to a desert facility where a handful of renegade un-possessed humans hang out, under the leadership of Melanie’s Uncle Jeb (William Hurt).
A hostile mind forcefully taking possession of a rebellious one could have explored many provocative territories such as identity or memory or mind-body dichotomy. Instead we have an idiotically mopey teen romance, and a character who spends a good part of the film muttering to her — other — self residing in her mind.
About squaring that love triangle. Melanie wants to go back to her lover Jared (Max Irons), but the Wanderer — name eventually shortened to Wanda — chooses to fall in love with Ian (Jake Abel). Annoying teen angst follows — Wanda can’t make out with Ian, being stuck in Melanie’s body; but neither can Melanie make out with hunky Jared, as she isn’t in possession of her body.
A lot of — unintentionally funny — kissing takes place, leading to high points of tension that go something like this: Wanda complaining to Melanie, “You’re angry when I kiss a man you do love, and you’re angry when I kiss a man you don’t. It’s very confusing.”
We’re confused and angry too: director Niccol, who usually delivers clever sci-fi, appears trapped in the host-body of Meyer’s book. While Ronan, normally a fine actress, seems to be on tranquilisers.
And then there’s Wanda, who at one stage, is called the purest soul in the universe. How this synchronises with Wanda’s thousand-odd years as a wanderer taking over numerous host bodies, and presumably exterminating multiple races — is a tricky query left unanswered by the schmaltzy script.
Genre: Romance/ Fantasy
Director: Andrew Niccol
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Jake Abel, Max Irons, Chandler Canterbury, Diane Kruger, William Hurt
Storyline: Teen soap opera where a handful of humans resist having their bodies taken over by invading alien Souls.
Bottomline: There’s a host of more entertaining things you can do with your time, like cutting toenails.