A good actor can’t save a film with a bad script and neither, it seems can a good director. Andrew Niccol may have helmed the very fine Truman Show and one of the best films of the 90’s, Gattaca but not even he can breathe life into the torpid sci fi romance The Host. Maybe he could blame author Stephanie Meyer on who’s book the film is based but as scriptwriter, Niccol has to take much of the flak.
The Host drops us into the not too distant future where small, sparkly Christmas bauble-like aliens have taken over Earth by invading human bodies and controlling the minds of their hosts. The alien-infected humans can be distinguished by the fact that they have weirdly bright blue eyes and they get around in white suits like Mr Rourke from Fantasy Island.
One newly-infected host, the rebellious young Melanie (Saoirse Ronan) resists the alien trying to control her mind from within. Their battle is realised through the ridiculous and annoying device of having Melanie engage in shrill arguments with the voice in her head a bit like Jan in The Brady Bunch movie. When Melanie escapes the clutches of ruthless alien leader The Seeker (Diane Kruger not Keith Potger) and her minions, she heads to the desert to find her little brother. There she’s captured by non-infected rebels most of whom are young pretty boys who, despite having lived for years in a cave, seem to have unfettered access to hair-product and stylists. Just like in the Twilight movies, otherworldly concepts are put on the back burner as our troubled young heroine becomes involved in a threesome with two pouty male models.
From the perspective of the middle aged male critic, this film is perilously close to being a turkey. It’s slow, uneventful and the few action scenes aren’t very exciting or particularly well shot. The science fiction concepts aren’t interesting, original or convincing and the film doesn’t provide a compelling reason why the aliens are even here. There’s also very little sense of how the invasion has affected the world as most of the film is restricted to either the rebel cave or Kruger’s office. Because of the limited locations, the film isn’t particularly interesting visually except for a few stunning desert vistas shot in Monument Valley. Also, what should have been relevant themes of self-sacrifice and individuality in the face of mass conformity are lost amid the cheese-ball romantic fantasy.
Admittedly, this film isn’t designed for grumpy old men, it’s meant for teenage girls who want shirtless pretty boys and a sensitive, vulnerable but feisty heroine with whom they can identify; in these respects the film delivers. For other audience members, though, this slow moving, tension-free two hour plus film will be a major slog.
Nick’s rating: One and a half stars.
Director(s): Andrew Niccol.
Release date: 28th Mar 2013.
Running time: 125 mins.
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