The true queen of teen torture and angst, novelist Stephanie Meyer, shows how to milk a mawkish melodrama while tapping into the cinematic psyche of adventurous adolescents everywhere. Clearly, Meyer has a proven track record of stroking the teeny-bopper tendencies in romanticism courtesy of her ‘Twilight’ phenomenon that has defined sensual cinema for young love-stricken lasses everywhere.
In the syrupy teen body-switching sci-fi fantasy ‘The Host’, Meyer once again delivers the sugary surrealism that made her aforementioned ‘Twilight’ sagas the gospel according to teen disillusionment. Based on Meyer’s 2008 book, ‘The Host’ tells the tale of another strikingly pretty heroine Melanie Stryder (played by gifted Irish actress Saoirse Ronan from ‘Atonement’ and ‘The Lovely Bones’) whose futuristic world is topsy-turvy while being riddled with alien souls and the tampering of humanity.
Writer-director Andrew Niccol (‘Gattaca’, ‘In Time’, ‘The Truman Show’) painfully highlights ‘The Host’ with unbearable by-the-numbers kitsch as the meandering material gets bogged down in a confusion of body-possessed banality, sluggish sentimentality and the cliched conventions of pretty young people as lost souls searching for identity in self-discovery and undeveloped passion. Frankly speaking, ‘The Host’ is a rancid romancer fueled by hedonistic hokum. Labored, tedious, mushy and pandering, Niccol’s one-note narrative is unintentionally hilarious in its dopey rhythms of monotonous moodiness and despair.
Poor Melanie exists in a straight-laced humorless world where the common practice warrants alien souls being surgically installed inside human beings. Fortunately, for some of these mortal guinea pigs, they had the opportunity to escape such an ordeal as they are banished on the outskirts of this peculiar conservative civilisation where ribaldry of any kind is not allowed.
Anyhow, there is some unpredictability involved as it is not always certain that a human body can contain or control the alien soul inside them. There have been instances where the will of the body host is at odds with the inserted alien soul. The notable effects that is evident such as hearing various voices inside and struggling to cope with strong emotional urges serves as a menacing quandary for the conflicted human body to handle.
In the case of Melanie, her resident alien soul known as the Wanderer or Wanda for short will stop at nothing to get want it desires. Thus, Melanie is left struggling with a split-personality as she tries to determine what she wants versus what Wanda covets. Basically, the question is posed this way: who is actually in the driver’s seat of Melanie’s vehicle of romantic fate?
Consequently, Melanie’s dual identity crisis puts her at odds between choosing what dreamy boytoy she will gravitate toward instantly. Currently, Melanie favors her boyfriend Jared (Max Irons) but her alien Wanda-host itches for loving the presence of Ian (Jake Abel). Hence, Melanie and Wanda bicker over the choice of which dreamboat to hug while giving this bewildered young girl the appearance of being a walking nutcase. Much like Melanie Stryder’s contemporary cupcake Bella Swan from the ‘Twilight’ franchise, where she agonized over her ‘ice cream flavors’ of Edward and Jacob the obvious parallel is tossed out for Ronan’s crystal marble blue-eyed protagonist pixie to pick her preferred eye candy in either Jared or Ian. Wow, talking about a deep dilemma for an alien-controlled diva as she is torn between two poster boy love interests!
Sadly, ‘The Host’ ridiculously juggles its saccharine-coated plots without solidly providing a convincing ounce of credibility within the familiar cheesy realm of a teen-angst science fiction soap opera. The movie wants to rip off the ready-made formula of the ‘Twilight’ creative conveyor belt without trying to at least offer something more original and unique in its own brand of honeysuckle hogwash. The dipstick-sounding dialogue has all the inspiration of a powdered donut. Refreshingly, ‘The Host’ does have a stylish, intoxicating and polished sheen. It is too bad that the glossy presentation cannot compensate for the goofy proceedings at large.
Ronan, a capable young and spirited performer, is betrayed by this teary-eyed tripe as she resembles nothing more than a sci-fi Sybil wannabe as she talks to herself like some chill factor cheerleader mumbling nonsense to psyche herself up just before a dance routine on the gymnasium floor. Ronan does deserve some credit as her Melanie is at least more three-dimensional than Kristen Stewart’s droopy expressionless Bella in the ‘Twilight’ universe.
The supporting cast is wasted in this body-snatching bore of a creepy caper. Both male pin-up targets, Irons and Abel, come off as hollow heartthrobs and remind one of a couple of refugees from a popular packaged 90s boy band. Diane Kruger does not get much of a chance to shine as the villainous alien soul named Seeker whose preoccupation with materialistic items matches her need to hunt down the jeopardized Melanie. William Hurt gets some arbitrary screen time as Melanie’s Uncle Jeb, a scrappy bearded survivalist showing some wear-and-tear cynicism.
Inexplicably, ‘The Host’ is another convenient Meyer-induced supernatural soap dish that wants to exploit the girl power movie-going minions with schlocky cotton candy amour nestled behind an overused gothic-oriented gimmick.
The Host (2013)
Open Road Films
2 hrs. 3 mins.
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Max Irons, Jake Abel, Chandler Canterbury, William Hurt and Diane Kruger
Directed by: Andrew Niccol
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre: Science Fiction/Teen Drama/Mystery & Suspense/Fantasy
Critic’s rating: * ½ stars (out of 4 stars)