What are we to make of the fact that the new science fiction movie in town, “The Host,” opened on Good Friday? The eventual resolution to the basic problems put forward in the story is a sort of mutual understanding that is associated with Christianity. Otherwise there doesn’t seem to be much to relate the great holiday of the church with the second plot of novelist Stephanie Meyer of Twilight fame.
Instead what’s interesting about “The Host” is that it often looks like a late 1950s TV western—you know, with fake caves that Zorro or the Lone Ranger can rest in. This is a talky movie, and limited sets and sparsity of casting make it look a lot cheaper than its projected $44,000,000 budget would suggest it should have looked.
Directed by Andrew Niccol, who also gave us “In Time” and “Gattaca,” the movie features a good cast. Melanie and Wanda are played by Saoirse Ronan (star of “Lovely Bones,” “Atonement,” “City of Ember,” and “Hanna”). Diane Kruger, William Hurt, and Frances Fisher all appear.
But they all seem to have been smoking pot between takes. They are intelligent and well-cast. But they are also deliberate and without energy. And then there is the problem with the young men—they all look so much alike that I couldn’t tell Melanie’s admirer from Wanda’s, and this caused a certain amount of consternation.
The idea here is that aliens who look like fiber-optic dust-bunnies have been going from world to world, physically inserting themselves in the dominant creatures on each planet. Some of them have lived in many other bodies—perhaps they switch out when their bodies would ordinarily die. I couldn’t tell what the aliens’ motivation was.
As the story opens, they have just about taken over Earth by occupying all living humans. When they get into a human, the body’s eyes turn steely, unnaturally blue. A few rebel people are still hiding out. One, Melanie, tries to kill herself rather than be caught by the invaders.
Inserted into her body is a sympathetic alien called “The Wanderer.” She tries to help alien Gestapo agent Seeker (Kruger) in accessing Melanie’s memory of the hiding places used by other rebels. But The Wanderer discovers that Melanie’s personal essence hasn’t died. The two of them spend the movie, then, giving “internal monologue” a new meaning.
Not only does Wanda, as the rebels begin calling her, spend a lot of time talking trying to convince the humans that she means them no harm, but she also chats inside her head with Melanie, who actually knows the rebels they meet.
Pretty soon everybody gets used to Wanda being around in the New Mexico caverns where the humans secretly grow wheat (!). A young man falls for her. Not “her” the part that’s Melanie but the consciousness that is The Wanderer. Not that this makes any sense to the viewer, who is being lolled to sleep by the gentle rolling of the movie plot: talk, talk, activity, talk, talk, activity.
Eventually Wanda becomes the leader of the club that’s made for human beings. She uses alien medicine to save Melanie’s brother from a scythe cut and finds a way to recover the consciousness of occupied bodies without hacking the aliens out of them. Now if only Kruger would quit using those silver copters and Lotus cars to hunt down humans out foraging, everything would be copecetic.
Perhaps because the problems are solved so easily, “The Host” isn’t very interesting. Sci fi lives on action, and there just isn’t much happening in this drowsy little teen-aged girls’ movie.