Director: Alex Garland
Writer/s: Alex Garland (written for the screen by), Jeff VanderMeer (based on the novel by)
Starring: Natalie Portman, Oscar Isaac, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tuva Novotny, Tessa Thompson, and more.
One look into this trailer and who was at the helm of it and I was sold. “Annihilation” comes to us in the hands of Alex Garland, the director and writer. He is previously known for his recent film, “Ex Machina” which is another favorite of mine. With so much running in favor of this film through my eyes, it easily became one I expected great things from. Whether this statement holds true, that was up to my reaction upon film’s end.
“A biologist signs up for a dangerous, secret expedition where the laws of nature don’t apply.”
As if Alex Garland had not already left the world with “Ex Machina” that sparked debate and questions, he adapts and creates “Annihilation” for the world to argue and debate over. This film was an adventure to sit through with hardly a dull moment in sight. It challenged my every thought and theory as the film went on and even now, it still challenges any theory I could put together or read as well as viewers all over the world. Complexity is an understatement when it comes to “Annihilation”.
While I avoid going too deep into theory and explanations, I want to focus on more of the concrete aspects of “Annihilation”. First off, the characters played by an absolutely underrated cast. At lead we have Natalie Portman playing Lena, the biologist. Natalie has always been a joy to watch on screen. With such a delicate and kind looking exterior, she is anything but, as she is a strong and determined powerhouse in “Annihilation”. Surrounding her are Gina Rodriguez, Tuva Novotny, and Tessa Thompson as her crew mates. Each bring their own unique characters to life and despite being personalities all on their own, they unite as one force to be reckoned with.
However, among this powerhouse team, I have one glowing blemish among them all. Jennifer Jason Leigh playing Dr. Ventress, the crew leader and psychologist. While I am more than appreciative of her previous roles, this role was unexciting in a multitude of ways. Her presence was nothing more of boring as she spoke every line enthusiastically and flat. I absolutely dreaded each time she had more than two sentences to speak. Now, early on I thought to myself, “Okay, maybe she has a tragic story to go along with her emotionless persona. I will wait it out and see.” Well, she did have a story, but personally, I felt it was not tragic enough to warrant an emotionless approach to her character, especially as a leader in the film. On top of her droning character, a certain action during the film made me sigh out loud in disapproval. Simply not a character or performance I could get behind.
Stylistically, this film has a blend of being terrifying and beautiful all at the same time. Almost on an “Arrival”-esque environment status, the surrounding nature of the “Shimmer” is gorgeous. Filled with strange unexplained beauty. The colors presented and the “natural” wonders in the film are a marvel to look at.
On the opposite side of the coin, this film is utterly terrifying at moments. There are sequences in this film that fit right into a Sci-Fi horror genre tag and also sequences in this film that can be seen as both strangely beautiful but subtlety horrifying. This is no easy feat to accomplish but Garland and his crew transcend a unique film experience rarely seen nowadays.
“Annihilation” challenges your every thought, theory, and even existence if you want to take it that far. While as an audience, we are learning about what is happening in the film, it even feels as if we are learning at the same pace as the characters we watch within the film itself. It has so many different actions and underlying symbols which could represent one or ten things or maybe they do not represent anything at all. That is the beauty within “Annihilation”. The debate and conversation about what could be or what couldn’t.
While I thoroughly enjoyed “Annihilation”, the film is obviously not going to be landing on the correct taste buds of some viewers. If you are someone that wants to go into an “Annihilation” viewing desiring an “Alien” or “Predator” type sci-fi film, you will be disappointed. If you wish to have an easy to follow and “all questions answered” type film, once again, you will be disappointed. This film is once again, complex and challenging. Equal parts beautiful, terrifying, curious, mysterious, complex, and so many more things. “Annihilation” will not be a box office hit but it will be a gem in the eyes of many who fancy its style.
Rating: 8/10 bordering 9