Saturday, March 30, 2013

Invasion of the Jealous Voice-over: The Host

When writer Stephenie Meyer took a break from writing her Twilight series, she went sci-fi, taking the basic premise from the 1956 classic film Invasion of the Body Snatchers of emotionless alien souls taking over human bodies, but she still found a nifty way to serve up the requisite teen love triangle that her fans expect. Why be different?

In the film, young Melanie (Soarise Ronan) gets snatched by one of the alien entities that have taken over most of humankind, and she becomes the emotionless Wanderer, while the mind of Melanie struggles to stay alive in Wanderer/Melanie’s brain. This leads to some comical back and forth between Wanderer and Melanie’s plaintive voice in her head. In fact, Ronan's angsty voice-over provides a lot to laugh at. But this is serious! Melanie's human love survives, and this takes Wanderer out into the desert looking for her former boyfriend, Jared (Max Irons).

When Melanie ends up captured by survivalists led by a bearded, shotgun-wielding frontiersman named Jeb (William Hurt), things get all Twilight. The voice inside Wanderer still loves Jared. Meanwhile, in a clever but silly tweaking of the love triangle scenario, Wanderer, nicknamed Wanda because Wanderer is too much for Jeb to say, starts falling in love with Ian (Jake Abel). Team Ian anyone?

Then things get really confusing, and really silly! While Ian kisses Wanda who, of course, looks like Melanie, Melanie’s inner voice goes, “Don’t go there!” and “This is so wrong!” Despite some glitzy trappings (all alien vehicles and helicopters are made of shiny chrome) and some lovely cinematography of sunset-washed desert and mesas, the movie kind of reminded me of some of the low-budget sci-fi movies I’d catch on TV on Saturday afternoons during the 60s. Wooden acting. Vapid lines of dialogue delivered with inordinate spaces between them, many of them simplistic and silly. “Can Melanie go into another room so you can kiss me?” “Kiss me in a way Melanie won’t like.” As for the action, it’s slow-paced and half-hearted because the story is all about kissing.

Of course, we learn that true love is stronger than an alien parasite and that all those body snatchers, seed pods in the original film, just want to be kissed. The film is more about kissing than love, but I kind of enjoyed its lethargic B-movie pace. Still, after seeing it, I needed to wake up a bit, so I saw Spring Breakers again.

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