x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Film review: The Host

This adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's post Twilight sci-fi novel had the potential to become a cult movie but mostly, it disappoints.

Max Irons and Saoirse Ronan in the adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's sci-fi The Host. Alan Markfield / Open Road Films / AP Photo
Max Irons and Saoirse Ronan in the adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's sci-fi The Host. Alan Markfield / Open Road Films / AP Photo

The Host
Director: Andrew Niccol
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Diane Kruger, William Hurt, Max Irons, Jake Abel
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The superstar author Stephenie Meyer stepped away from the Twilight zone with her 2008 sci-fi best-seller The Host, but not too far away. The writer and director Andrew Niccol’s largely faithful adaptation stars Saoirse Ronan as Melanie, a feisty American teenager in the near future whose body is taken over by an alien parasite from another galaxy.

These sparkling body-snatchers, called Souls, already control most of mankind. But Melanie’s irrepressible nature fights back against alien occupation, and their two personalities end up sharing the same body when Melanie escapes to rejoin the secret underground resistance of human survivors. Oddly reminiscent of the 1984 Steve Martin comedy All of Me, this metaphor-rich premise spawns some clever dramatic twists, notably when Melanie and her inner parasite become romantically torn between two different men.

Sadly, Niccol’s reverential adaptation is overlong and borrows its cloying, laborious mood from the Twilight movies. Between thrilling cat-and-mouse chase sequences, viewers have to endure endless dreary scenes of sanitised teenage romance and contrived friction between blandly interchangeable male hunks. Yawn.

The Host opened to mostly terrible reviews and lukewarm audiences in the US last month. But in fairness, Niccol does inject visual style and wry humour into Meyer’s syrupy sci-fi fairy tale. The Souls, in their pristine white uniforms and gleaming silver sports cars, resemble a sinister supermodel army styled by Apple’s in-house design team. Devotees of Niccol’s chic 1997 debut feature Gattaca will detect some of the same sleek retro-futurism here. The unbranded food products in the alien-controlled superstores also pay knowing homage to the cult 1984 sci-fi comedy Repo Man.

Such witty touches make The Host far more interesting than all the negative reviews suggest. But still, in the battle between Niccol’s sardonic humour and Meyer’s mushy New Age platitudes, the latter is the dominant parasite that ends up turning a potentially fascinating cult movie into a disappointingly ponderous experience.

artslife@thenational.ae

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