'Host' tells a different sort of alien story

Published: Friday, March 29 2013 1:25 a.m. MDT

Max Irons and Saoirse Ronan star in "The Host." (Alan Markfield) Max Irons and Saoirse Ronan star in "The Host." (Alan Markfield)

"THE HOST," based on the Stephenie Meyer book; directed by Andrew Niccol; starring Saoirse Ronan, William Hurt, Frances Fisher, Chandler Canterbury; opens March 29; PG13; running time 125 minutes.

Stephenie Meyer did with "The Host" what she did with the "Twilight" series. She took a preconceived notion and made a deliberate, creative flip.

In "Twilight," she made blood-thirsty vampires into a more sensitive species, people her readers could learn to love despite their history.

In "The Host," the sparkly, ethereal souls that invade the Earth human by human are relatively peaceful in their quest. They don't see the problem with taking over the bodies of a brutal, self-destructive race that needed saving anyway.

And they start out as pretty and soft, kind of like feathery, snowflake babies looking for homes.

So it is that Melanie Stryder ends up co-existing with "Wanda, aka The Wanderer."

She is surprisingly resistant to giving over her life to one of the beings that came from space and that turn everybody's eyes into glowing, ringed circles.

She isn't going away lightly and lets "Wanda" know it, especially when Wanda kisses her former beau (before he knows she's still Melanie in there). She wants her life back, her love and her little brother back.

To get there involves a hot walk across a lot of desert sand in great shoes, convincing suspicious humans to allow her to live and carving out a unique bond with the alien wearing her face and body.

"Twilight" fans will be happy to get some Meyer story back in this movie because there's definitely an "Edward/Bella" feel to the love story. There's also a good amount of natural tension as members of the resistance group try to come to terms with a "good" alien among them. It's a learning process.

It also makes for an interesting story that starts out a bit slowly so the audience can get the picture and takes off once Wanda is discovered nearly dead in the sand by her Uncle Jeb (William Hurt). (Uncle Jeb is fantastic in his part, "You'all seem to be under the impression this is a democracy. It's not. It's a dictatorship!”)

Saoirse Ronan plays the part(s) of Wanda and Melanie superbly as they battle for dominance in Melanie's body. When the two argue, it's funny and when they discover they need and like one another but cannot survive in the same physical host, it's painful.

Max Irons is the Edward — er, Jared — in this story. He's dark, handsome and utterly in love with Melanie, so much so that he punches her lights out when Uncle Jeb brings her in out of the desert.

Chandler Carterbury is Melanie's little bother, Jamie, and plays his part with the trembling lip and big eyes that make the audience want to keep him as a pet.

Jake Abel is the love interest for the alien as Ian O'Shea, and Boyd Holbrook is Kyle O'Shea, the brother determined to rid the caves of Wanda.

Shot in and around Shiprock in New Mexico, the story is backdropped by sheer beauty and wide-open spaces that makes one wonder how the Keepers and Seekers in their shiny stainless-steel patrol cars can miss the raiders coming in and out of the caves in the daylight. (In the book, these were night-time raids).

Only the magic of movie-making could have kept them below the Seekers' radar.

And the Seekers, particularly one annoying, blond, skinny lady (played by Diane Kruger), are relentless. They have all kinds of glossy, cool cars, motorcycles and helicopters to help them hunt down humans.

It makes for a considerable amount of tension throughout and a nice kind of change from the usual aliens-from-space-are-gonna-getcha tale.

There is violence, mostly vehicles crashing, and there is some romantic sexuality implied. The movie is probably for teens and older.

Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with 35 years experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com. Email: haddoc@desnews.com

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