Film Review: ‘The Host’

Max Irons and Saoirse Ronan are very sensitive in "The Host."  Credit: Alan Markfield
Max Irons and Saoirse Ronan are very sensitive in “The Host.”
Credit: Alan Markfield

‘The Host’
Director: Andrew Niccol
Stars: Saoirse Ronan, Diane Kruger
Rating: PG-13
2 (out of 5) Globes

The works of Stephenie Meyer are written off, and not unfairly, as moony junk, with sensitive pretty boys lusting, chastely, over pretty everygirls. But they’re weird. Even before the “Twilight”s take a turn for a biological rebellion free-for-all that would nauseate even David Cronenberg, they’re bizarrely interesting, slipping promise ring propaganda into a nice little sex picture about vampires and werewolves. One day semioticians will have a field day with Meyer’s “The Host,” which features a young teen’s lust literally suppressed, plus physical abuse and even a scene where our heroine begs her beloved to cut her.

Once the child star of “Atonement,” Saoirse Ronan plays Melanie, a fierce teen and one of the few survivors of an alien invasion in which extraterrestrial glowing cartoon octopi have overtaken humanity and given them weird blue Meg Foster eyes. As “The Host” begins, Melanie is captured and swiftly occupied, but her “soul” — named Wanderer — proves conveniently nice and weak-willed. Melanie can talk to her occupier, although her commentary, audible only to Wanderer and the audience, tends to be amusingly expository, leading to the silliest narration track since the overheard thoughts in David Lynch’s “Dune.”

Melanie guilt-trips her parasite into escape, and most of “The Host” winds up taking place at a socialist commune, led by Melanie’s benevolent hippie dictator uncle (William Hurt), in a pimped out cave that looks like the inside of an amusement park dark ride. This leaves room for more scenes of what being dutifully tilled than a Communist musical from the 1950s. A dye-blond Aryan villain (Diane Kruger) obsessed with capturing Melanie/Wanderer provides a little bit of drive, but as with “Twilight,” most of the screentime is eaten up by mutual emo staring. The cave is populated by three bedheaded rent-a-hunks; good luck telling them apart. One is Melanie’s old flame and another gets really into Wanderer, yielding not a love triangle but a love square, with a boy each for parasite and host.

But sex, as in all Meyers, is bad. The few kisses (no tongue) lead to violence, and it’s not hard to read the subtext into Melanie/Wanderer’s line to a prospective suitor, “It’s not me you like. It’s this body.” The real love, though, winds up being between host and parasite, which is original. Questionable but overqualified director Andrew Niccol (writer of “The Truman Show”) and Ronan give this more dedication than it deserves, but no amount of seriousness can obscure it’s profound and unique insanity.


Florida man charged with murdering son to play…

A Florida man annoyed that his 16-month-old crying son was preventing him from playing video games suffocated the toddler, police said on Friday.


Powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake rattles Mexico

A powerful earthquake struck Mexico Friday, shaking buildings and sending people running into the street, although there were no reports of major damage.


OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…


Oval oasis: Summer of fun kicks off this…

A bold partnership between the Fairmount Park Conservancy and the city's Parks and Recreation Department is kicking off this weekend with family activities re-activating this unused public space.


Whoopi Goldberg makes her debut as marijuana columnist

"It helps my head stop hurting, and with glaucoma your eyes ache, and she takes the ache out. It's wonderful," she said.

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

The Word

Is Tom Cruise dating Laura Prepon?

"Mission: Impossible" star Cruise is said to be dating Laura Prepon, star of "Orange is the New Black."


'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…


Jimmy Rollins is key to Phillies success

When John Kruk was asked about what the Phillies need to contend for a playoff berth, the ESPN analyst said Jimmy Rollins needs to play like a MVP again.


Ben Revere lifts Phillies to avoid sweep

Ben Revere came through with a two-out RBI single against Atlanta’s tough lefthander Alex Wood.


Season wrap: 76ers make the grade

The 76ers opened the 2013-14 season with a victory over the Miami Heat. The Sixers closed the season with a win at Miami.


Fantasy basketball: Finding next year's NBA studs

Before we put the 2013-14 fantasy basketball season to bed, it’s worth thinking about next year’s breakouts while they’re fresh in our mind.


VIDEO: 'Vein-scanning' may become the future of paying

Designed to make transactions quicker and easier, the technology works by scanning the unique vein patterns in each person's palm.


#FollowFriday: 10 of the smartest Twitter accounts

Spending lots of time on Twitter? You might as well learn something. Here are some of the smartest accounts to follow.


Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.


Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.