Stephenie Meyer is best known for “Twilight” — that young adult vampire romance that became a best-selling book and film franchise – but her slightly lesser known sci-fi thriller (also a romance) “The Host” wasn’t even written with teens in mind. You wouldn’t know that given the way Open Road Media has marketed “The Host,” and after seeing the movie, it’s clear the director also decided to stick to the swoony kisses rather than any more mature issues the book may or may not pose.
It’s clear the filmmakers and studio are banking on teens seeing it. This isn’t “Alien”; this is a romance-focused version of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” In a future where humans have been taken over by alien parasites, Melanie (Saoirse Ronan) is part of a diminishing group of human survivors. But then she’s captured and injected with an alien that is supposed to have total control over her mind. Melanie, however, isn’t a passive host. She stays in her alien’s (called Wanderer) consciousness and persuades her to seek out the brother and the boyfriend (Max Irons) she left behind.
Since it’s unlikely you’ll read Meyer’s soapy best-seller before the movie leaves theaters, here are five issues to take into consideration before taking your teen to see “The Host.”
1. Whole Lotta Love: Unlike in the “Twilight” series, where Bella and Edward didn’t consummate their mortal-meets-immortal relationship until their wedding night, the main couple in “The Host” definitely didn’t wait. Although the movie skirts over Melanie and Jared’s age difference (she’s still a teenager, while he’s in his mid-20s when they first meet in the novel), there are several flashbacks to the two of them getting it on, but at least it’s in a PG-13 manner (the most revealed is Irons’s bare back, while Ronan is shown in a bra). If sex on screen concerns you, at least the scenes are brief and fuzzy (the memory sequences are so blurry they look like they were shot through a layer of Vaseline).
2. Melanie and Jared and Wanda and Ian: Forget the rather simple love triangle between Bella, Edward, and Jacob; in “The Host,” there’s a complicated quadrangle (square? parallelogram?) between Melanie and her love Jared, but also between Wanda (the Wanderer’s nickname) and Ian the progressive human who can tell that Wanda is separate from Melanie — even if they share the same body. At one point, Wanda kisses Ian and then immediately kisses Jared – just to see if it sparks a response from Melanie, who usually gets upset if Wanda kisses either of the men. Yeah, it doesn’t exactly make a lot of sense on paper, but there you have it. Lots of kissing and complicated emotions, as you would expect from a teen-targeted story. Oh, the feelings!
3. Silver Linings? Silver Sports Cars: For some unknown reason, the Souls’ police force (called Seekers) all drive shiny Lotus sports cars. It’s a bit ridiculous and does nothing to further the plot, but wow those cars are amazing to look at, so expect your kid to mention them. Not sure why there needed to be such a conspicuous bit of consumerism in the movie, but at least the Lotus Evora isn’t something your teen will reasonably expect to receive (it’s $ 70K and up) come the holidays.
4. The Future Isn’t So Bad: As far as sci-fi or dystopian futures go, the one presented in “The Host” isn’t actually that bad or violent. I’d much rather be taken over by a benign graft alien than eaten alive by cannibals in “The Road” or forced to watch children compete to the death in “The Hunger Games.” There is some violence, but the overall body count is pretty low. The “Souls” (aliens) are quite pacifistic (except for one bloodthirsty alien played by Diane Kruger) and don’t kill humans (that would be counterproductive, since they need their bodies as hosts!).
5. Read It Then See It: Meyer wrote “The Host” with adults as the intended audience, but according to One Minute Book Reviews, the writing is at a fourth-grade reading level, and obviously tween and teen fans of the “Twilight” books have read it. While actual fourth-graders might be a tad young to read the 600-plus page novel, teens should have no problem handling it. Given Meyer’s penchant for romance, some teen girls –- particularly those who liked the adventures of Bella and Edward — should read it and see how it compares to the movie.