Annihilation is a science fiction horror film from writer director Alex Garland, known for Ex Machina. The movie includes a cast of Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tuva Novotny, and Oscar Isaac and that’s it. Besides extras and an unnamed scientist, there are no other characters.
Annihilation is about an expedition of female scientists who journey into an area titled “The Shimmer” where nature has been mutated. Many expeditions have entered but only one man has come out, Lena’s (Natalie Portman) husband. The Shimmer is constantly expanding, posing a threat to humanity which is why the cryptic Southern Reach establishment keeps sending in expeditions.
I read the book before seeing this movie, but the film for the most part is a complete diversion from the story Jeff Vandermeer told in his novel. I don’t want to spoil anything else about this movie because I think that it is one of the finest science fiction films to be released.
The Shimmer is terrifyingly beautiful. Garland knows exactly where to place the camera and when to use CGI or practical effects. We see scenes of beauty mixed in with scenes of horror, leaving us uneasy about the area and what it is doing to our Earth.
Much like Garland’s film Ex Machina, Annihilation tackles deep dark themes such as self-destruction and what we do in desperation. I asked myself after this movie: what does it mean to be evil? Is it inherently evil to exist? How do our own personal biases change how we perceive things?
The acting from the mostly female cast is excellent and fits the tone of the film perfectly. The dialogue is well written with moments of levity that work consistently without taking away from the macabre vision of the movie.
There is one issue I had with the film which is a sub plot about Lena before the expedition that includes sex scenes that come out of nowhere. This sub plot makes sense tonally but was totally unexpected and felt like an afterthought. On the good side, it only takes up a few minutes of the 2-hour running time.
This is a movie like last year’s Get Out. Some people who walk into the theater will come out with new ideas and will think about this movie for days after viewing it. I don’t think that this movie is for everyone though, it is a think piece that requires participation from the viewer the whole time.
Overall, I think that Annhilation is a gorgeous film with one of my favorite endings to a movie ever. The acting is superb, and the characters are interesting and layered. If you want to see a movie that will keep you up thinking, see Annihilation. If you want a good popcorn movie, see Black Panter. In the end, I truly believe Annihilation will be a movie that will be remembered throughout the history of film.