'The Host' (PG-13)

In The Host, aliens conquer humankind by taking over their bodies and minds. Too bad they can’t do the same to anybody watching this movie. An invasion of the body snatchers is preferable to realizing that the true horror perpetrated here is not on the characters but on the audience.

But The Host is based on a novel by Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight series, and so it will draw the young, the curious and anybody still heartbroken over the end of the vampire saga. This cut-rate sci fi, though, isn’t going to measure up even to those meager standards. Though there are some intriguing ideas here — namely a love rectangle involving two cute guys, the plucky main character Melanie and the alien who has taken up residence inside her — The Host is an early contender for Worst Movie of 2013. It’s so bad, Adam Sandler should be in it.

As the film opens, the aliens, led by the Seeker (Diane Kruger of Inglourious Basterds), capture a fleeing Melanie (Saoirse Ronan of The Lovely Bones and Hanna). The aliens have taken over most of the world at this point. They insert a comrade named Wanderer into Melanie, and her eyes begin to glow as Wanderer takes over — nature’s convenient way of telling us who’s who.

The aliens, Wanderer included, view themselves as a nonaggressive bunch who improve the troubled planets they colonize by ending war, famine and The Real Housewives franchises. They don’t value free will, and so Wanderer is confused when Melanie refuses to submit quietly. Melanie yells, pleads and threatens in Wanderer’s head, a galaxy-size problem that the movie can never overcome: Ronan, a solid young actress, is forced into far too many ridiculous internal conversations, a conceit a book can pull off much better than a movie.

But a bond forms between them, and soon Wanderer is helping Melanie return to the hiding place of her uncle (William Hurt), kid brother (Chandler Canterbury), hunky boyfriend (Max Irons, son of Jeremy) and what’s left of the human resistance. None of them takes kindly to Wanderer’s presence, nor do most of them realize at first that Melanie’s still there inside, until all the smooching starts. Turns out one of the other guys in the group (Jake Abel) falls for Wanderer, although, as the alien points out, he might not be so attracted to her — or him or it or whatever Wanderer is — in the original form, unless he had a fetish for glowy spiders, and who are we to judge if he did?

Director Andrew Niccol (Gattaca, In Time) doesn’t seem to realize there’s gender-bending fun to be had here, so he never takes advantage of the premise. The tone is deadly serious, the result dull and nonsensical. Would the humans really make a food run when they know the aliens are buzzing around above their hideout? Wouldn’t they wait an hour or two? Would Wanderer talk about how beautiful this world is if she has seen only desolate Texas scrubland? Imagine if she got a good look at the Pacific Ocean, the Grand Canyon or a Blu-ray of Magic Mike.

But there’s no point in such speculation. If you’re determined to watch The Host, just sit back and wait. Won’t be long until impatience and boredom — not aliens — start eating away at your brain.

Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Diane Kruger, William Hurt, Max Irons, Jake Abel.

Director: Andrew Niccol.

Screenwriter: Andrew Niccol. Based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer.

Producers: Stephenie Meyer, Paula Mae Schwartz, Steve Schwartz, Nick Wechsler.

An Open Road release. Running time: 125 minutes. Some sensuality and violence. Opens Friday March 29 at: area theaters.