So there’s a lot of talk about Annihilation, and because i’m so old I never noticed it. I literally stumbled over it and thought, this might be worth a go, and sat down cold. If possible, this is always the best way to watch a movie folks, don’t be swayed by reviews (such as this one) just look at the basics, genre, director, cast etc and go see it, honestly it makes sense,the internet is opinion and not much more.
Directed by Alex Garland (go watch Ex Machina now!), and starring Natalie Portman, this is a creepy sci fi thriller that has more depth and substance than the film it could have been. The concept behind the film itself is leading, apparently, to world wide debate about what exactly the theme of the film is.
So plot wise, here’s the gist, Portman leads a team of experts into the site of a crash landed meteor, know as the shimmer due to the ethereal landscape it is creating, to discover what it’s doing and why. They approach the area with their own mental baggage in one hand and their automatic rifles in the other, like an R rated version of the new Ghostbusters, but better, much better.
Portman’s military husband has emerged out of the shimmer after a year, and we know from the outset that there’s something just not right about him. The other investigators are a little less fleshed out than Portman, leading to some detachment from them as they face their fates, but overall they serve their purpose.
Portman spends an opening scene explaining to a class that in future classes they will be studying cancer cells and this theme seems to be most prevalent as the film slowly unveils itself. Beyond that, I’m not sure that i want to explain much more to you, needless to say, spoilers.
Now onto more obvious observations, this film looks great. A character explains that the shimmer may be acting as a prism, refracting light, and this visual approach is everywhere as they team enter the zone. There are mutated animals, landscapes and plant life littered right through the film, and it is difficult to explain it in words. Elements and aspects of DNA seem to have been melted together to create some mesmerizing and often disturbing images. The team are trying to reach the center of the shimmer, a lighthouse, where the meteor has struck and they have to make their way to it like a bizarre John Carpenter version of The Wizard of Oz. In fact, there is an aura of The Thing by Carpenter in this screenplay.It has that strange ambiguity about it, that frustrates the viewer as we don’t know what it is, and if we did, we still wouldn’t understand it.
The ending of the film will also split the audience as each viewer will have a different version of the events. Garland has left us with as many questions as answers, and I know that people who arrive at this film expecting Aliens will shrug their shoulders and say “So?” Those of you who watch more carefully will have a much more cerebral experience, as you try to figure out what was happening, why it was happening and what all the various aspects within the shimmer meant. To be honest, it’s difficult to review this film and avoid spoilers as so much hinges on the detail and intricacies of the actual events.
It will require a few viewings to really grasp all the minutiae that will make up a better overall viewing experience but I get the feeling most will not bother.
Possibly a little too dense, Annihilation will have an audience that loves it, and another that hates it. However there’s nothing wrong with that and i’m all for debate as far as film is concerned. Watch this film, especially if you are in the UK as it’s out for free on Netflix and had a cinema release in the US, lucky us. Visually stunning but hard to interpret satisfactorily, Annihilation, like it’s characters, is not afraid to self destruct.