However in the hands of
writer/director Andrew Niccol (Gattaca,
In Time), the result is occasionally challenging,
dealing with both the science fiction elements and the teen angst at the heart
of the story.
Earth has become a peaceful
planet with most of the humanity taken over by “souls” from another world. Only
a few humans are still free, and the souls do what they can to track them down
and claim them. When we first meet Melanie (Saoirse Ronan), she is fleeing from
them, coming close to death. She is captured and healed and then a soul is
implanted in her, that of a being called “Wanderer.”
What is unusual is that
Melanie’s human consciousness doesn’t disappear, but fights with Wanderer for
control of the body. While Melanie is forced to take a back seat, the two vie
for much of the film. The Seeker (Diane Kruger) had been hoping that Wanderer
would access Melanie’s memories as to the location of other rebels, but it
becomes obvious that Wanderer is ambivalent about this. Soon Wanderer is on the
"Not quite as satisfying as might be wished . . ."
This is where we get into
“yearning adolescent” territory.
Melanie is seeking not only her
younger brother but also her boyfriend Jared (Max Irons), both hiding in a
secret human enclave run by her uncle (William Hurt). The possessed humans are
immediately recognized by their weird eyes, and so Melanie is treated as an
Some of the humans come to
realize that Wanderer – now called “Wanda” – isn’t like the other aliens and
that Melanie may still exist. This leads Ian (Jake Abel) to become attracted to
Wanda, and vice versa, creating a romantic triangle that may really be a
As the humans figure out whom
they can trust, and Seeker gets more out of control, the science fiction nub of
the story are two consciousnesses – or souls – inhabiting one body. The aliens
turn out to be more complicated than they seem at first, although like the
mythology in the Twilight series
it’s not very well thought out.
If they are as benign as many
of them appear to be, how can they be blind to the moral dilemma of eradicating
a species by taking it over? This is something that the late writer Octavia
Butler handled with far greater subtlety and complexity in her landmark
Ronan appears young and callow
but handles the demands of a story where she is essentially playing two
characters being torn in different directions. The payoff isn’t quite as
satisfying as might be wished, proving both too convenient and a little too
obvious in setting up a sequel.
One hopes that Andrew Niccol could have the
leeway to do more films on the order of Gattaca, but he has no need to be
embarrassed by this effort. If making a Stephanie Meyers adaptation far less
annoying than any of the
Twilight movies helps him get his next project, it will have been worth it.
Daniel M. Kimmel is a
veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His first
novel, Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s
Guide will be released in January. He teaches film at Suffolk University and
lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.