Movie Review: Annihilation (2018)

Loosely based on the Jeff VanderMeer novel of the same name, Annihilation is a 2018 sci-fi movie directed by Alex Garland (Ex Machina, writer for Sunshine). Biologist Lena (Natalie Portman) joins an all-female excursion into a government blacksite known as The Shimmer, the result of a meteorite striking a coastal lighthouse. The team is led by psychologist Dr Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh), and also consists of physicist Josie (Tessa Thompson, Thor: Ragnarok, Westworld), paramedic Anya (Gina Rodriguez, Jane the Virgin), and geologist Sheppard (Tuva Novotny). Oscaar Isaac and Benedict Wong also star as Kane, Lena’s husband and a government scientist, respectively.

+ of the main fivesome, Portman and Thompson are the standouts. Despite being second in command at best, this is Portman’s movie as she essentially leads the team (though I found her character to be rather despicable). Thompson’s Josie was my favourite character, especially once the backstories of each woman become clear
+ one scene in particular is incredible tense, and reminded me in many ways of Predator, for numerous reasons, and another more recent film which I am sure you’ll make the connection to yourself. I can’t say the latter because of too obvious spoilers
+ the film is visually stunning, with the strange colour palette inside The Shimmer looking somewhere between alien and nightmarish (which I think might have been the point)
+ the film has good music throughout, with Crosby, Stills & Nash’s Helplessly Hoping used to great effect. The heavy bass/synth used in the final portion of the film was also particularly great

annihilation_2.png

– this was a film in three parts, for me: the first hour is so boring I considered dropping it entirely, but I pressed on solely because I had heard it was a good movie. The middle portion, until the final segment, was interesting, but not entirely good, with too many questions raised which were never really answered. The final portion, approximately the last twenty minutes, was strange and a little bit spooky, but again never particularly engrossing. I spent more time waiting for answers that never came
– I like Gina Rodriguez as an actress, but her “gruff lesbian Michelle Rodriguez knock off” was as stereotypical as it gets. I really wanted this to be a strong movie for women characters, but sometimes I feel that that is only ever a tag line, and never put into practice

> this is entirely unrelated to the plot of the movie, but how strange that subtitles would say the name and artist of a song. Surely the most common reason you would use subtitles is a hearing impairment, if not deafness, so really something like “soft, upbeat music” would be a better subtitle?
> I enjoyed the name of ‘The Shimmer’, because SHIMMER is an all-female wrestling promotion I enjoy

Should you see this film: A good cast, impressive visuals and some great music is not enough if the film itself is a slog to get through. I have heard that the book was better, and answers many of the questions left hanging here, but adaptions should always stand on their own, and this one does not.

1 Comment

  1. Each to their own. I found that the question that went unanswered made the film a bit better (as any answer would have probably disappointed me). The “film in three acts” assessment is valid. However there are are couple of pointers that link back from act two to act one, and act three to act two that are pretty disturbing (the dry swimming pool scene for one, and the ‘sculptures’ outside the lighthouse for another.)

    Liked by 1 person

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