Natalie Stendall review: The Host

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Best-selling author, Stephenie Meyer, leaves behind Twilight’s vampires and werewolves

for alien souls in sci-fi romance The Host.

As the movie’s title implies, Meyer’s aliens live inside the human body, taking over their host’s personality. But Meyer’s alien souls are not your typical alien invaders.

Murder and carnage is not their game. Instead, these higher beings have made earth a peaceful place.

Alien souls have built a society grounded on trust - they’re always polite, never lie and respect Earth’s natural resources. This scenario is certainly different, but makes for an

alien invasion that’s surprising only in its lack of personality.

In smoothing the brutal edges of her invaders, Meyer’s aliens stray into bland territory - a similar flaw Twilight critics have leveled at Meyer’s vampires.

The Host’s main protagonist is one of Earth’s last human survivors - headstrong teen,Melanie (Saoirse Ronan). When Melanie becomes implanted with an alien soul, she refuses to give up, becoming trapped inside a body she can no longer control. As The Host plummets into a battle of wills between invading soul Wanda and host Melanie, this sci-fi adventure struggles to gather pace.

Melanie’s internal struggle is demonstrated by an uncomfortable, echoey voice-over that sees accomplished actress Saoirse Ronan repeatedly argue with herself. It’s an odd device that quickly becomes annoying, not least due to Melanie’s sporadic, but frequently dreadful, quips. Despite her outstanding roles in Atonement and The Lovely Bones, Saoirse Ronan’s performance is hampered here by predictable and banal dialogue.

The ‘two girls, one body’ scenario is ripe for a complicated love triangle and The Host is bulging with cliche love scenes and trite romantic dialogue.

The film’s romantic themes are further impeded by a clear lack of attention provided to the male love interests. Lavished with brooding scenes of flirtation, these flimsy characters are given very little backstory.

Instead, the film’s plot is injected with well needed jeopardy in the form of The Seeker (Diane Kruger) who aims to eliminate the human resistance. Despite a plot that increasingly ties itself in knots as it approaches conclusion, The Host has sufficient energy to propel the film through its two hour run-time.

The film’s best asset is its robust, if predictable, visuals delivered by screenwriter and Director, Andrew Niccol (Gattaca, In Time), and his cinematographer, Roberto Schaefer (Quantum Of Solice, The Paperboy). The futuristic, silver and angular realm of the aliens is neatly contrasted with the natural earthy tones of the survivors’ desert refuge, in indulgent backgrounds that bring Meyer’s world engagingly alive.

Niccol’s massages The Host into a watchable sci-fi romance but Meyer’s follow-up to the Twilight franchise ultimately hinges on an awkward voice-over device that feels clunky and melodramatic. Saoirse Ronan gives it her all, but its unlikely that this will be enough to soar The Host to the dizzy heights of Twilight success.

Certificate: 12A

Running Time: 125 minutes

Verdict: 2/5