Director Andrew Niccol showed that he can deliver a decent sci-fi film with Gattaca and a just about competent one with In Time, so it’s surprising that his adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s follow-up to the Twilight saga is so uninviting.
Echoing Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, the premise assumes that almost everyone on Earth has been taken over by aliens. These ironically named Souls have seemingly ended global conflict using politeness and a taste for Apple’s design aesthetic, even though most of them have the personality of Robby the Robot.
The exception is Wanderer (Saoirse Ronan). Stirred by the adolescent passions of feisty Melanie Stryder, whose body she takes over, Wanderer falls for Ian (Jake Abel), who is part of a pocket of human resistance hiding in the desert.
When he first meets Wanderer Ian wants to kill her, but it’s almost immediately obvious that the pair will end up snogging. In the meantime, Melanie is inside the Soul’s head pining after her own boyfriend, Jared (Max Irons), who is hiding at the same camp. Jared, however, is also ready to rough up Wanderer until he discovers that the person she inexplicable speaks out loud to isn’t just an imaginary friend.
What Niccol seems to have missed is that even with a sappy setup like this, Meyer’s novel could have been adapted into a film that touches on issues like identity and individuality. Instead, his script dutifully focuses on the book’s soap opera clichés and credibility-crushing daftness.
For instance, the Souls seem to be technological sophisticated, yet they – rather inefficiently – choose to track Wanderer through the desert in flashy sports cars. The humans, meanwhile, have somehow built an elaborate system of mirrors to illuminate their cavernous hideout, but are lucky to get away from the local supermarket with a bottle of milk.
The Host is pitched as a romantic thriller, but in truth it’s neither moving nor exciting. Diane Kruger is marginally menacing as Wanderer’s pursuer, but symbolically her own colleagues lose interest in her objective halfway through and leave her to it.
You might well end up doing the same.