It’s easy to purport peace when you belong to the dominant faction. But for humans, the idyllic state of harmony on Earth has come at a huge cost. Aliens, in the shape of brightly lit dust bunnies, have embedded themselves in their human hosts, effectively taking over mankind and establishing a tranquil new living situation for the invaders. Only a few mortals remain, holed up in hiding places, in this film adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s latest book, The Host.
After their father kills himself to avoid being “taken”, Melanie (Saoirse Ronan) and her kid brother Jamie (Chandler Canterbury) are forced to flee from the Seekers who want to insert an alien life form into every available body. While stealing food, Melanie meets Jared (Max Irons), a suitably handsome young man who holds a knife to her neck before passionately kissing her. (I guess that’s what happens when you haven’t spoken to another human being for two years.) Together the trio tries to make their way to the cabin of Melanie’s Uncle Jeb (William Hurt) in hopes of finding other survivors. But along the way, she is captured and embedded with an alien soul known as the Wanderer.
Unwilling to passively accept the intruder, Melanie refuses to surrender to her new body mate. The situation gives new meaning to the phrase “I’m of two minds”. It also gives rise to a convoluted love triangle (something Meyer also created in her Twilight series) when each of the personalities in Melanie’s body falls in love with a different boy. But while the film suffers from exhaustive voice-overs, juvenile dialogue, moments of unintended humor and plot holes the size of Nevada, Ronan attempts to make her character as believable as possible—a feat that isn’t always easy as she stares into the camera while the voices fight it out in her head.
Conveniently setting itself up for a sequel, The Host may have an instant following of Meyer fans. Yet while the brief sex scene between Melanie and Jared doesn’t result in the same physical bruises Belle experienced in Twilight, there are still violent depictions that raise content concerns for younger viewers, such as self-inflicted knife wounds, multiple suicides, brutal punches and shootings that leave blood pooling on the street.
Like the Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the extraterrestrials in this movie are intent on replacing the planet’s residents. Although the shiny-eyed visitors in this movie are the enemy, the audience is supposed to bond with Melanie’s body mate who plays the film’s protagonist. The setup forces Melanie and her uninvited guest to form a schmaltzy truce by the end of the film, but it’s one that seems overly sentimental in the face of millions of people who’ve died to play host to the invaders.