Unlike Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series, The Host -- fortunately -- comes without all the hype. Slathering fans in love -- or more likely lust -- with Bella and Edward-like characters aren't going to be drooling at the theater door waiting to rip the heart out of any critic daring to dis their favorite characters.
That lets us take a rational look at Meyer's The Host.
The big plus for the film version of her lesser-known novel is that it is gorgeous. Screenwriter/director Andrew Niccol shoots most of the exteriors in New Mexico near the famous 1,583-foot peak Shiprock. Shots of the area from the air are stunning. Even if you hate the movie, Niccol's travelogue-like shots may get you gassing up your vehicle and heading that direction for a summer vacation.
Interior shots are just as interesting. The areas controlled by the alien hosts are sterile and unnaturally clean. Humans hiding inside the famed rock and its surrounding areas are in equally interesting surroundings.
The plot is where everything collapses. It has beings from space called Souls conquering the Earth and using our bodies as hosts for their personalities. The Souls are small, feathery-like things, almost angelic in appearance. Once impregnated with the alien, the human's personality is buried and their eyes turn a shimmering blue.
Of course, humans resist the conquering and small groups here and there offer resistance.
Saoirse (pronounced Seer-sha) Ronan is Melanie. Typical of a Meyer story, she's a 17-year-old in love with a super hunky guy, and they're on the run from the hosts. She gets caught and when the Soul called the Wanderer is placed in her body, Melanie's force of will keeps her -- it? -- from completely taking over her mind.
One thing leads to another, and Wanda -- the host's human name -- decides to follow Melanie's advice and escape the aliens and go to the human haven. That leads to other problems, as the mistrusting humans only see Wanda and her blue eyes, not Melanie.
So far, the story is at least a little interesting. There is no evidence of any super weapons or anything that indicates how these feathery beings were able to conquer several billion people. It's a bit of a head scratcher. And you're never told how.
Another problem, other than the near-psychopathic Seeker done by Diane Kruger (Unknown) who tirelessly pursues Melanie/Wanda, the rest of the hosts seem to be a rather peaceful, uninteresting and nonaggressive lot.
It's hard to imagine them conquering anything.
Typical of Meyer's twaddle, she can't just stick with a nice sci-fi piece. A love triangle forms as the Wanda part of the character falls in love with a guy who isn't the guy Melanie loved before being captured and changed.
The acting isn't bad considering the horrible dialogue. Soft science fiction is Niccol's specialty. He did the tepid In Time and S1m0ne. His only real, original writing success was The Truman Show.
Most of the cast are unknown pretty people who look good but can't act. Ronan, who picked up a best supporting actress nomination for 2008's Atonement, is a talented young actress with great potential. She and her co-stars struggle with the silly dialogue and a plot that grows dumber by the minute.
One last acting note. It is always nice to see William Hurt, and his presence and exceptional skill -- even with bad dialogue -- and that of the also exceptional but little used Frances Fisher, help make sitting through The Host more bearable.
Key words: more bearable. In the end, The Host is not a very good movie.
Depending on how things go at the box office, and depending on how Meyer's The Host book sequels do -- she's planning a trilogy -- we may see more of this group in the future because Niccol leaves us with the makings of The Host part two.
Director: Andrew Niccol
Stars: Saoirse Ronan, Diane Kruger, Max Irons, Jake Abel, William Hurt, Frances Fisher
Mr. Movie rating: 2 stars
Rated PG-13 for mature themes, some violence. It is playing at Regal's Columbia Center 8, the Fairchild Cinemas 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.