March 30, 2013 -- Despite the bad reviews I went to see this latest adaptation of a Stephanie Meyer (“Twilight” books) novel. It was better than I expected. It was also better than any of the “Twilight” movies, but that isn't saying much. The story concept is interesting, but it gradually runs off the rails and doesn't end up being as good a story as it should have been.
This science fiction story takes place in the future after the earth is invaded by creatures who take over human bodies, erasing the minds of the host body. Only a few free humans are left in the world. Despite their advanced technology, they travel around in human-style vehicles covered in chrome. This is not a big budget movie, but at least the special effects don't look as cheesy as those in the “Twilight” films.
One of the free humans is Melanie (played by Saoirse Ronan of “Hanna”). Near death, she is healed by the aliens who implant her body with a thousand year-old alien known as The Wanderer. Although The Wanderer occupies Melanie's body, Melanie's spirit lives on. She is determined to get back to her little brother, Jamie (Chandler Canterbury of “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”). The Wanderer's job is to probe Malanie's memories and find out where the last band of remaining free humans is hiding. The Wanderer, however, decides to switch sides and go with Melanie. She runs away.
The Wanderer, led by Melanie, ends up in the desert near Shiprock, New Mexico, where Jamie, his uncle Jeb (William Hurt of “The Incredible Hulk”) and a small group of free humans are living in caves. Jeb finds Melanie. On a hunch, he prevents the others from killing the alien possessed body. Gradually, Jeb and the others learn that The Wanderer is not a threat. She has switched allegiances and wants to peacefully coexist with the free humans.
Romantic complications develop when The Wanderer falls in love with Ian O'Shea (Jake Abel of “Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief”) and also fools around with Melanie's old boyfriend, Jared (Max Irons of “Being Julia”). This makes Melanie jealous. She seems to be of two minds about a lot of things (this wording is one of precious few jokes in the film). As in her previous two popular films, “Atonement” and “Hanna,” Ronan plays a character, Melanie, who is somewhat passive, a victim, with a very limited set of facial expressions. She is acted upon, rather than being an active force. It is almost as if she is anesthetized in this film. It would be a nice change to see Ronan in a movie where she has to stretch her acting range a little.
One of the aliens becomes obsessed with finding the colony of free humans in New Mexico and becomes violent, which is contrary to the rules of the alien culture, which is largely benign, except for wiping out human minds, spirits and civilizations. The aliens manage to heal the environmental damage done to the planet by the humans, which is supposed to make up for their virtual genocide of us, I guess. At any rate, the environmental harm done to the earth is used as a justification for the alien takeover of the planet. This reveals an ugly truth about the philosophy, some would say the religion, that is environmentalism.
There is an obvious solution to the problems that The Wanderer and Melanie and the other humans and aliens were having, but the story opts for a different solution that is a little less obvious. All of the major conflicts are resolved by the story, but there are a lot of unanswered questions about the fate of five or six billion humans, dogs, cats and other animals in this strange, antiseptic future version of earth. The film also omits the moon from the opening shot of the earth moving through space. Maybe the aliens got rid of the moon, too.
It helps having a major talent in this film, William Hurt, who builds a character you can believe in. All the other characters in the film don't seem to be grounded in anything. But Hurt's character, Jeb, is rock solid. Hurt is not enough to save the film, but he sure helps. This film rates a C.
Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.