The Host

Posted: March 29, 2013 at 4:11 a.m.

Diane Kruger stars in THE HOST, the big screen adaptation of Stephenie Meyer¥s best-selling book, opening March 29, 2013.

The Host 66 Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Diane Kruger, Max Irons, Jake Abel, William Hurt, Frances Fisher Director: Andrew Niccol Rating: Rated PG-13 for some sensuality and violence Running time: 125 minutes

The films made from Stephenie Meyer’s The Twilight Saga were so morose that it would scarcely be accurate to call them romances, unless your idea of perfect love is to spend several days doing nothing but brooding.

With Andrew Niccol’s new adaptation of her novel The Host, it would seem that she had switched to comedy. During the screening I attended, the auditorium roared with laughter, but it’s hard to believe that’s what Meyer or Niccol intended.

Diehard fans of the vampire and werewolf genres have complained about how Meyer took all the menace from the supernatural world.Now it’s outer space enthusiasts’ turn to be irritated.

In the near future, the human race has been mostly conquered by a group of aliens who can travel across light years but for some reason need to occupy our bodies and use our technology like cars,guns and computers.

Mysteriously, these folks can’t simply make better bodies for themselves. If you had the power to heal others by waving a device that looks like a cigarette lighter over the wound, couldn’t you make an artificial body that doesn’t have annoyingly useless parts like an appendix? Furthermore, how could theyfix our planet’s environmental problems if they keep using the same machines we did to wreck it?

Because these alien souls weren’t smart enough to think of that and dress in what looks suspiciously like business casual, they don’t seem all that scary, and there are humans who’ve been able to resist their Borg-like call for assimilation.

One particularly tough human named Melanie (Saoirse Ronan) punches a few possessed humans before she leaps to what she hopes will be her death. When the aliens have taken over a body, the eyes look a lot like the ones the creepy children had in Village of the Damned. Melanie likes her eyes just the way they are.

That might explain why after her captors heal her and implant a glowing ball of lint in her neck named “The Wanderer,” she still puts up a fight. “The Wanderer” or “Wanda” gets into yelling matches withMelanie, who yells at her in voice-over. In print, this feud might not have seemed so silly because a reader could imagine how it would unfold. On screen, watching Ronan argue with herself is awkwardly amusing.

Wanda’s boss (Diane Kruger), a cold-hearted alien dubbed “The Seeker,” wants to use her to find the other humans Melanie was with so their bodies can house other glowing balls of lint. The plan falls apart because Melanieand Wanda use the same body for different agendas, and Wanda even begins to feel for the humans, especially after meeting Melanie’s resourceful and compassionate uncle Jeb (William Hurt).

This wouldn’t be a Meyer adaptation if there weren’t a love triangle. While Melanie/ Wanda is a much stronger and more sympathetic character than the human doormat that is Bella Swan, Jared (Max Irons) and Ian (Jake Abel) are impossible to distinguishfrom each other. At least with Edward and Jacob, one was a whiny vampire, and the other was a shirtless werewolf.

Andrew Niccol, who once wrote smart films like Gattaca and The Truman Show, probably saved his backers a ton of cash because the aliens didn’t require that much makeup. Sadly, the biggest problem with The Host is that the human race is so sketchily portrayed that it doesn’t seem worth saving from the extraterrestrial threat.

MovieStyle, Pages 31 on 03/29/2013