Movie Talk

‘The Host’ marks the second coming of ‘Twilight’ author Stephenie Meyer

Photo: Open Road

So long, vampires and werewolves and sparkles. Hello, space aliens and the (near-) end of the world!

Bella, Edward, Jacob and friends (and enemies) made their final cinematic bow last November with "Breaking Dawn - Part 2" and Hollywood is currently hard at work in attempting to find what will be "the next 'Twilight,'" a fantasy franchise with YA appeal that's good for snagging the hard-earned money of swooning teenage girls and their dates. The latest contender might actually be the most successful in bringing in the Twi-hards, as it comes from the "Twilight" author herself, Stephenie Meyer.

"The Host" is a much more ambitious undertaking on Meyer's part as it adapts the fantastical, cross-species romance of "Twilight" for a grim dystopian future world (a la "The Hunger Games") that's been all but wiped out by an alien invasion. The story has an even more convoluted mythology than its predecessor as it follows a race of parasitic aliens, called Souls, that have turned most of the Earth's population into peaceful yet emotionless automatons. One Soul, known as "Wanderer," finds that its host, a teenage girl (what else?) named Melanie Stryder, isn't cooperating with the Master Plan, and soon the alien starts sympathizing with the human resistance ... and falling in love with Melanie's boyfriend, Jared (a clever and rather subversive twist on the "Twilight" love triangle).

[Related: Check out the new posters for 'The Host']

The novel, first published in May 2008, is better than any of the "Twilight" books: more confident, more imaginative and nowhere near as creepy in its portrayal of a submissive female needing some supernatural force (whether a vampire or, in this case, an alien) to point her in the right (or wrong) direction. Certainly an entertaining storyteller with the "Twilight" series, Meyer emerges as something resembling a good writer with "The Host," free from the shackles of her own franchise and allowed to indulge her wildest ideas. It's also the makings of a pretty decent movie ... if put in the right hands.

The first teaser for the screen adaptation of "The Host" was unveiled last March before prints of "The Hunger Games" (natch), featuring little more than a loving closeup of star Saoirse Ronan's possessed eye. Later, attendees of the "Breaking Dawn - Part 2" panel at the San Diego Comic-Con in July were treated to an extended look at the film, which ended up being an impressive-looking but completely incoherent collection of scenes featuring Ronan as Melanie, Max Irons as Jared, Jake Abel as human rebel Ian O'Shea and, perhaps most memorably, Diane Kruger as the villainous Seeker, who's determined to wipe out the human resistance and sets out to find the traitorous Wanderer.

The new stills for "The Host" are definitely emphasizing the romance angle as they feature Ronan and Irons locked in passionate embraces (or at least looking longingly at each other) whilst the supporting cast (including William Hurt as Melanie's eccentric uncle, Jeb) traverse a desert landscape. The posters are also playing on the story's sweeping epic hero's journey, boldly demanding that audiences join the characters and "Choose to Believe," "Choose to Fight" and, of course, "Choose to Love."

It remains to be seen whether director Andrew Niccol, who can knock science fiction out of the park ("Gattaca") or send it crashing and burning ("In Time"), is able to rein in Meyer's sprawling vision to a cohesive whole. But, like "Twilight" before it, there's little doubt that the many fans of "The Host" will care if it ends up not exactly qualifying as a "good film."

See the theatrical trailer for 'The Host':

'The Host' Theatrical Trailer

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