Movie review – Twilight remixed with sci-fi

2013-04-14 10:00

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Film: The Host (Ster-Kinekor)

Director: Andrew Niccol

Featuring: Saoirse Ronan, Max Irons, Diane Kruger and William Hurt

Rating: 5/10

If you thought being a teenager in love was confusing enough – you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Stephenie Meyer, of Twilight trilogy infamy, returns with what threatens to be a new trilogy.

The first film in this threesome is The Host, a sci-fi flick about an alien invasion akin to Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

This time, though, instead of us each being replaced by a clone of ourselves, we are all being implanted with an alien soul.

This parasitic thing takes over the body of a human and experiences life as he or she would – but without the crime, speeding, bullying, shouting, or, indeed, any of the other things that make us obnoxious and, thus, human.

Not-yet-20 Saoirse Ronan, who made her chilling debut in Atonement, and also starred in The Lovely Bones and Hannah, feels far too good an actress to be a wannabe Bella Swan, which is what her character Melanie/Wanderer is.

To give credit where it is due, Melanie is a lot less droopy.

She actually gets on with saving her brother and, through her character’s refusal to give up, ends up sharing her body with the alien soul rather than surrendering to it.

She does this partly so that she can return to her boyfriend – and save her brother – which is the point where the teen angst starts to take over the plot.

This film takes the concept of the imaginary friend to a whole new level of crazy. Much of the film is, well, the lead character talking to herself in asides and Melanie and Wanderer each seeking the upper hand in the fight for consciousness.

In a world where very few humans remain uninvaded, Melanie brainwashes Wanderer into going in search of her lover and her brother.

They are, however, followed to the human hideout in the desert by a Seeker (Diane Kruger), who seems to have failed to read the alien race’s memo about not being a murderous bully.

Dressed in an all-white ensemble that would have made Buck Rogers proud, and driving a shiny silver car that glints prettily in the desert sun, this Seeker will stop at nothing to find every human and implant them with an alien soul.

The trouble with sci-fi is that it is oh-so easy to slip into the realm of the ridiculously cheesy (ask George Lucas, but he made it Star Wars’ virtue).

The Host is very cheesy.

Not only does Wanderer fall for a different boy to the one Melanie likes, but the human stragglers in this film are what you’d expect – bearded wild men and women with ragged clothes in an array of earth tones that offset the shiny white of the aliens.

Director Andrew Niccol knows good sci-fi. His previous films include Gattaca and S1mOne.

He also wrote The Truman Show and Lord of War, both excellent commentary films on reality TV and guns, respectively.

I suspect, though, this is a case of how you can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear. Meyer, as always, gets caught up in the romance and the story becomes mired in conflicting love affairs. Staying true to the two-boys-one-girl formula that made Twilight such a hit, she adds another element to this teen love triangle by having two girls in one body.

This allows for confusing moments that keep it all very chaste between the three teen leads as they try to work out who should/shouldn’t have carnal knowledge of whom.

Max Irons, as Jared, is a dead ringer for Robert Pattinson. He has the same sulky mouth and hooded eyes. The other love interest is the slightly wilder Ian (Jake Abel), who falls for Wanderer, who’s confusingly in the same lithe teen body as Melanie.

The Host feels suspiciously like an attempt to repackage an old idea by a writer with no new ideas. As for the film makers, they are shamelessly doing what they can to recapture the payday that was Twilight – my guess is The Host isn’t that payday.

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