Annihilation (2018)

annihilation poster 2018 movie natalie portman
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 9/10

A for the theoretical concepts, visuals, and cast

D for the basic story set-up

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Annihilation

Studio:  Skydance Media

Genre(s):  Horror/Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Release Date(s):  February 13, 2018 (Premiere)/February 23, 2018 (US)

MPAA Rating:  R

annihilation ending natalie portman

Open your mind…but don’t think too hard

Lena (Natalie Portman) finds her husband Kane (Oscar Isaac) suddenly home after a year and a secret government mission.  When Kane’s health suddenly declines, Lena is pulled in by the military and learns that a location quarantined by the government is surrounded by a strange barrier nicknamed “The Shimmer” and that the Shimmer is growing at an alarming rate.  Desperate for answers about Kane’s medical condition, Lena and a team of scientist enter the Shimmer in the hopes that they will uncover what has remained hidden behind the veil…but what goes into the Shimmer never seems to come out.

Directed by Alex Garland, Annihilation is a horror sci-fi thriller.  The movie is based on the Jeff VanderMeer 2014 novel which is book of his Southern Reach Trilogy.  The film was met with mixed to positive reviews, but distributors also faced criticism when the movie was only released directly to Netflix in countries outside the United States, Canada, and China.

annihilation human flowers tessa thompson

So the aliens build…topiaries?

There are definitely things I like about Annihilation, but there are definitely problems with the film.  It is true science fiction and the science fiction aspects of the story seem to be on the maker’s forefront…and not necessarily the basic concepts of the story itself which hurts the overall product.  It is a bit frustrating because it feels like the problems were probably ideas that were presented in the novel or could have been written around in a few simple words.  Due to story aspects, a ******spoiler alert****** exists for the rest of the review.

The fun and the failure of the movie is the Shimmer.  The basic concepts of the story are about extinction and intent.  Through the course of the story, you get the idea that the evolution occurring as a result of the Shimmer is a natural step.  It isn’t (as Portman’s character points out) necessarily hostile or intended.  The potential extinction of our race are a result of the introduction of the Shimmer and not the intended action.  Evolution happens and extinction happens…Portman and Isaac’s characters are the potential next step when humans are obsolete.

annihilation mutant bear natalie portman

I’m pretty sure this is from that Winnie-the-Pooh horror movie…

While I enjoy some of these ideas, it is the straight writing that frustrates me.  It isn’t explained why the characters can simply step into the Shimmer and step out…or likewise why something can’t be thrown into the Shimmer on a rope and pulled out (like biological material) to study the effects of it on things.  If the goal is the origin point (aka the lighthouse), they need to explain why approaching by boat or by the shore isn’t a goal.

The cast is fine through there was a bit of criticism for some of the changes of the races of characters in the movie.  Garland based the movie on the first book which wasn’t specific about the lead characters and didn’t read the sequels which defined races etc.  It is a solid cast, but I feel some of the science team (besides Portman and Jennifer Jason Leigh) could have been explored and developed more.

annihilation ending lighthouse natalie portman doppelganger

This is why Virginia Woolf wrote To the Lighthouse…

I will say that the visuals of Annihilation are fantastic.  The world which is a modified, evolving world based on Earth is visually compelling (especially the last scenes on the beach and at the lighthouse).  This is mixed with some great sound editing that gives the movie a weird, dreaming, and horrific feel.  Scenes with the bear and the doppelganger really ratchet up the horror.

Annihilation is a problematic movie.  It is so close to being “really good”, but the unanswered and unexplored technical questions surrounding the philosophical questions of the film hurt the movie and become a distraction.  While I can let myself go in the ideas of Annihilation, I wish the movie firmed up some of the story to allow an open mind.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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