Francesca Rudkin

Francesca Rudkin is an entertainment reviewer for NZ Herald.

Movie review: The Host

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Invasion of the boyfriend snatcher - Saoirse Ronan as Melanie, or is it Wanderer? Photo / Supplied
Invasion of the boyfriend snatcher - Saoirse Ronan as Melanie, or is it Wanderer? Photo / Supplied

Oh, do cheer up if you're lamenting the end of the Twilight saga.

The Host is another romantic fantasy based on a young adult novel by Twilight author Stephenie Meyer, this time of the sci-fi kind.

Much like its forerunner, The Host features a complicated love triangle, cheesy dialogue and occasional action thrills. Twihards are obviously going to love this, but while there are story similarities, the genre switch means The Host at least looks like a different film.

New Zealand-born director-writer Andrew Niccol does a good job of explaining the story's tricky premise. That is, Earth has been taken over by aliens known as Souls, who take over humans' bodies. We meet our heroine Melanie (Ronan) in the process of being captured by a "Seeker" (Kruger) - the aliens hunting down the last resisting humans. A Soul, called Wanderer, is implanted in Melanie but Melanie refuses to give up her body entirely and remains as a voice inside Wanderer's head.

This means Saoirse Ronan has many scenes reacting and responding to her inner Melanie, which we hear as an ethereal voice-over. While awkward at first, Ronan pulls off the inner conflict, which comes to a head when Wanderer falls for one boy, Ian (Jake Abel), and Melanie for another, Jared (Max Irons).

Niccol has a knack for science fiction; he wrote and directed Gattaca and In Time, and The Host is a slick, stylish looking film. His aliens are courteous control freaks, given to white clothes and silver Lotus cars. Earth looks surreal but recognisable - it's very clean, bright and seemingly less inhabited thanks to the alien invasion.

But it's not just the look of The Host that makes it different from Twilight. The aliens have invaded out of ecological concern, while the characters are fighting for something more than just being able to date the boy they love; they're fighting for the survival of mankind.

It does, however, struggle to find a way of making the romantic trysts sit comfortably against the story.

At times you'd be forgiven for thinking you're watching a Nicholas Sparks adaptation with all the kissing scenes in the rain. It's not helped by Niccol's earnest tone - there's little room for humour here and a touch more action would have been welcomed, too.

The Host wraps up cleanly but it's clear from the ending that, all going well, there will be a second instalment. Stephenie Meyer has confirmed she's working on a sequel called The Seeker. Something tells me this alien invasion isn't over, quite yet.

Stars: 3/5
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Diane Kruger, William Hurt
Director: Andrew Niccol
Running time: 125 mins
Rating: M (violence)
Verdict: Earnest sci-fi for Twilight fans

- TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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