By Roger Moore
---- — ORLANDO, Fla. — Stephenie Meyer made her fortune by packing three hormonal teens into a love triangle. So it’s understandable that she’d be a little reluctant to stray too far from her “Twilight” formula for success with “The Host.”
“This isn’t a love triangle,” she protests, laughing. “This is a love square,” a quadrangle, with four parties involved. And “The Host” isn’t about vampires, werewolves and the pretty young thing torn between them. It’s about an alien inhabiting a young woman’s mind, sharing it with her “host.” And the two hot young guys competing for her/ their affection and loyalty.
Whatever variations on a theme “The Host” presents, it’s a hit on the page. And now it is a “high-stakes, high-concept” (Entertainment Weekly) sci-fi film starring Saoirse Ronan as Melanie, the human who hosts “Wanderer,” one of a legion of aliens, collectively known as “The Soul,” who have taken over Earth by implanting themselves into human bodies and eliminating war, hunger and strife of all kinds.
“I started out with the idea that everybody SAYS they want world peace, but what would be the price of that? The loss of the individual? The loss of free will, of privacy? Those things make us who we are, and is world peace WORTH that?”
Meyer, whose Mormon background works its way into her sci-fi/ fantasy romance fiction, doesn’t necessarily see “The Host” as an indirect reference to Mormon teachings, of Lucifer’s desire to remake the world without free will. But it gives her pause. “The Soul, in this story, do a pretty good job of making the world a better place,” she explains.
Max Irons (“Red Riding Hood”) and Jake Abel (“I Am Number Four”) play Jared and Ian, two young fighters resisting alien conquest, torn by this lovely young woman with the alien-blue eyes who is a prisoner of their human colony, hiding out in caves in the desert Southwest.
A lot of their scenes have them interacting with Ronan, who is both talking and trying to concentrate as she has an argument inside her own head between herself and the alien who has moved in with her.
“It’s kind of like sitcom acting,” Abel, 25, says. “In a sitcom, you pause for the laugh. Here, you pause for Melanie’s reaction INSIDE the Wanderer’s reaction, that second take.”
Irons, 27, son of Oscar-winning actor Jeremy Irons, says that “We had to remember that SHE could hear this argument inside her head, but we couldn’t. So we were only aware of these subtle changes to her face, these confusing pauses. We have no idea what’s going on in there, other than that. We get a hint of it, and we still have to find her quite attractive, with all that strangeness about her, that remoteness that comes from this struggle going on between Melanie and The Wanderer.”
Abel jokes about how these guys can find this very odd young woman so attractive. “There aren’t a lot of women in the cave. She hears voices? Meh. Not a deal breaker.”
One thing nobody involved is joking about is the expectations that “The Host” carries with it. As big a hit as “The Twilight Saga” was, that information is just baggage for the new film, which opens Friday.
“It’s such a distinctly different film and book that it’s hard for me to accept the expectations that one gives to the other,” Meyer says. “On the other hand, I have to ask if they would have made this movie without those expectations coming from the ‘Twilight’ films. Probably not. So expectations have a good and a bad side to it, when you’re a writer.”
Irons hopes audiences and critics will judge the film on its own merits.
“The best hope we have,” Abel says, “is that people love our movie the way they loved earlier movies based on her books.”