Movie review: The Host

05:00 AM, Mar 30, 2013

Saoirse Ronan is the only good thing about The Host. (ALAN MARKFIELD/GANNETT)/

Written By Bill Goodykoontz | Gannett Chief Film Critic

Critics rating: 4

Saoirse Ronan is an actress of notable intelligence, which is probably why she stands out in The Host.

The movie, based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer of Twilight fame and directed by Andrew Niccol, is just kind of dumb. Like the more famous books and movies — about a love triangle between a vampire, a werewolf and a human girl — it often plays like a teenage girl’s idea of how literary romances play out.

Which means, of course, that teenage girls will love it and get to swoon over Max Irons and Jake Abel at no extra charge.

The film begins with Melanie (Ronan) on the run. A parasitic alien race has taken over most of the humans on Earth, which is now peaceful and docile and, in the way of these sorts of things, wrong. Humans, it turns out, are different from the species the aliens have taken over on other planets. We fight and wage war and all that ugly stuff.

But we also have free will, something a small band of rebellious humans is fighting to keep. Melanie is one of them. She’s protecting her little brother and tries to distract the Seekers (aliens on the hunt for rebels) from him when, cornered, she leaps out a window, presumably to her death.

No. Somehow she survives. She is healed, and one of the aliens is implanted in her. Since this particular alien has done this several times on several planets, it goes by the nickname Wanderer. But Melanie is not going away without a fight. Although Wanderer has taken over her body, Melanie’s spirit, or something, remains.

Thus, there are two personalities in one body, meaning Ronan has a lot of scenes in which she has conversations with herself (though her mouth doesn’t move when Melanie is talking, or thinking, or whatever it is she does to communicate).

This must remain secret, of course, or they’ll transfer Wanderer to another host body and let Melanie die. Wanderer toes the company line at first, but Melanie’s will is strong. Eventually, the two of them, in the one body, head out to the remote hideout where the other rebels live. The place is run by the eccentric, brilliant Jeb (William Hurt), who is at first the only human willing to accept the return of Melanie/Wanderer.

The script, written by Niccol, asks a lot of Ronan, who for the most part delivers. Probably her greatest accomplishment is to keep the movie from lapsing into abject silliness, which it threatens to do from time to time (to time).