USA TODAY - The Host offers a vague sci-fi scenario, but at its core is a silly teen romance in which two girls inside one body kiss two boys in two bodies who have a crush on one or the other of them.
It's not all that complicated.
The meager fantasy underpinnings of this hokey saga (* * out of four; rated PG-13; opens Friday nationwide) are just window dressing. It is, after all, based on a novel by Twilight author Stephenie Meyer, the master of passionate, yet chaste, multi-teen entanglements.
The lead character (Saoirse Ronan) plays a character of two minds. Literally. One belongs to teenage Melanie. The other is that of a 1,000-year-old alien known as Wanderer (nicknamed Wanda), who has taken over Melanie's physical persona.
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The plot is set sometime in the future when a peaceful species has overtaken Earth by quietly infiltrating human bodies, leaving just one signature mark on each host: a pair of icy blue eyes.
Ronan is better than the material she's given as Melanie/Wanda. The star of Atonement and Hanna conveys more intelligence than her foolish dual roles call for.
Much of the story is mired in dramatic inconsistencies and lapses in logic. In addition to invading bodies, this alien race has rid the world of problems like famine and pollution. The aliens are like a huge conglomerate, taking over planets like a mega-corporation swallows competing businesses. But the utopia in which kindly doctors heal gaping wounds with the sweep of a small high-tech device still relies on desktop computers and, in one case, an old Volvo.
The film opens with Melanie being chased by aliens. She's captured and her body is surgically inserted with the alien's luminous, many-tentacled "soul." Her new being is christened Wanderer and interrogated by a corps of calm aliens with a marked preference for mirror-plated sports cars, white clothing and fancy footwear.
Through flashbacks we learn Melanie was on the run with her little brother Jamie (Chandler Canterbury). They joined forces with fellow human Jared (Max Irons). Much of Jared and Melanie's time is spent kissing or discussing kissing.
The reason the minds of Melanie and Wanda reside in one human is due to Melanie's powerful determination not to relinquish control of her body. She yearns to reunite with her brother, boyfriend and eccentric Uncle Jeb (William Hurt), who oversees a hidden human settlement in underground caves. The schizoid duo runs away from the aliens and ends up in her uncle's community. Later, the Wanda part of her falls for Ian (Jake Abel), over Melanie's wild objections. She's still in love with Jared. But her body gets to kiss two cute guys. What a predicament.
Neither the romance nor the fantasy keep the tale from descending into tedium. Director Andrew Niccol, who adapted Meyer's novel, pulls off some visual flourishes in the design of the caves. But the overall concept doesn't cohere, or come close to the fascinating world he created in 1997's Gattaca.
Like Twilight, the action is slowed by too many dull-eyed stares meant to be smoldering. A bigger problem is that the aliens are an exceedingly pleasant bunch who have rid the world of its problems. What's not to like? The human rebellion comes off like a bunch of hillbillies angry for no justifiable reason.
Human Melanie spends a lot of time chiding alien Wanda - especially about boys. Even in a world devoid of all ills, teen angst prevails in the mindless experience presided over by The Host.