"Dopey, derivative and dull, The Host is a brazen combination of unoriginal science-fiction themes, young-adult pandering and bottom-line calculation," writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. And that's one of the kinder things American reviewers have had to say about writer-director Andrew Niccol's sci-fier starring Saoirse Ronan, Max Irons, Jake Abel, and Diane Kruger, and co-produced by Stephenie Meyer, the author of the novel on which The Host is based -- and She of the Twilight Saga franchise.
The Host: Invasion of the Body Snatchers meets Twilight?
In The Host, an alien force takes over the bodies and minds of human beings -- you didn't know most humans had minds, did you? -- erasing their memories. As a sort of early 21st-century Kevin McCarthy, Saoirse Ronan plays Melanie Stryder aka The Wanderer, who, according to the film's byline, "will risk everything to protect the people she cares most about" from those predatory aliens.
Now, who does Melanie most care about? There's her younger brother Jamie (Chandler Canterbury), her Uncle Jeb (William Hurt), and no less than two young, hunky guys (that's where the Twilight bit comes in): Jared (Max Irons) and Ian (Jake Abel). Forget those pesky aliens. Which earthling will Melanie end up with? And will either Jared or Ian go the way of Dana Wynter in Invasion of the Body Snatchers? (Watch The Host teaser trailer.)
More The Host reviews
Here are a few more The Host reviews, from Rotten Tomatoes' "top critics," who have given the film a poor 3.8/10 average, and (currently) a dismal 6 percent approval rating:
- "[The Host] offers viewers the choice of Team Hokey or Team Absurd," ridicules Jon Niccum in the Kansas City Star.
- "A sci-fi writer like Philip K. Dick (Blade Runner) might have used this premise to explore notions of memory and identity. Meyer uses it to create a teen soap opera," complains Newsday's Rafer Guzman.
- "We're treated to the bizarre spectacle of Ronan arguing with herself repeatedly over which guy to kiss. But since both are similarly bland, it barely matters," writes Elizabeth Weitzman in the New York Daily News.
- "An invasion of the body snatchers is preferable to realizing that the true horror perpetrated here is not on the characters but on the audience," warns Connie Ogle in the Miami Herald.
- "The Host lacks the adolescent foolishness that made Twilight even remotely relatable, and it isn't even bad enough to be fun," laments William Bibbiani at CraveOnline.
And here's a rare dissenting voice, though its "positive outlook" has more to do with The Host's potential to reach and please its target audience than to any intrinsic qualities in the material:
- "Simply dismissing The Host as a shallow Invasion of the Body Snatchers/Romeo and Juliet mash-up would be to ignore how effectively it will play to large herds of mall-dwellers," affirms Simon Foster in Screen-Space.
The Host vs. The Twilight Saga critics' ratings
For comparison's sake, here are Rotten Tomatoes' top critics' ratings of the five Twilight movies, all of which were based on Stephenie Meyer's bestselling novels and adapted by Melissa Rosenberg:
- Catherine Hardwicke's Twilight: 55 percent approval rating, 5.8/10 grade average.
- Chris Weitz's New Moon: 43 percent approval rating, 5.3/10 average.
- David Slade's Eclipse: 59 percent approval rating, 6.1/10 average.
- Bill Condon's Breaking Dawn Part 1: 33 percent approval rating, 5.1/10 average.
- Bill Condon's Breaking Dawn Part 2: 46 percent approval rating, 5.3/10 average.
As you can see, the lowest-rated Twilight movie, Breaking Dawn Part 1, had an approval rating more than five times higher than The Host's, and a grade average 30 percent higher.
The five Twilight movies starred Kristen Stewart as Bella Swan and Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen. Taylor Lautner was a supporting player in the first Twilight movie, then was promoted to co-lead in the other four films.
The extensive Twilight cast included regulars Dakota Fanning, Ashley Greene, Nikki Reed, Michael Sheen, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Jackson Rathbone, Kellan Lutz, Billy Burke, Cameron Bright, Daniel Cudmore, Charlie Bewley, Michael Welch, Anna Kendrick, Julia Jones, and Booboo Stewart. Among the "guest" stars were Bryce Dallas Howard (replacing Rachelle Lefevre, who was featured in the first two movies), Mackenzie Foy, Xavier Samuel, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Cam Gigandet, Mia Maestro, Christian Camargo, MyAnna Buring, Maggie Grace, Rami Malek, and Graham Greene.
The Host cast
Besides Saoirse Ronan (a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award nominee for Joe Wright's Atonement), Max Irons, Jake Abel, Diane Kruger, William Hurt, and Chandler Canterbury, The Host features Olympus Has Fallen's Phil Austin, Stephen Conroy, Jhil McEntyre, Boyd Holbrook, Frances Fisher, Scott Lawrence, Emily Browning, and Rachel Roberts (director Andrew Niccol's wife and no relation to the Oscar-nominated British actress of the same name).
An Open Road Films release, The Host opens tomorrow, March 29. Whether or not the film has a strong debut weekend -- Channing Tatum's G.I. Joe: Retaliation is targeting a radically different demo -- expect The Host's box office earnings to suffer a catastrophic drop on weekend no. 2.
Saoirse Ronan and Max Irons kiss in The Host photo: Open Road Films.