Annihilation Review: A Beautifully Mind-Bending Film

WARNING SPOILERS AHEAD!

Alex Garner’s Annihilation is a film that has left its mark on the sci-fi genre for many years to come. With a star-studded cast and beautiful visuals Annihilation does not disappoint in that aspect but more importantly, Garner gives a story that will cause viewers to think and create their own conclusion on what the film truly means. Based on the self-titled book, Garner’s version differs heavily from what it’s adapted from and for someone who has not read the book I cannot form an opinion on whether or not his version holds up with the original story.

One year after her husband has gone missing on a secret military mission, Lena’s (Natalie Portman) husband Kane (Oscar Isaac) returns home with no explanation of where he has been. Lena, wondering where he has been for a year receives more questions than answers to his whereabouts. Quickly falling ill after his arrival back home, Kane is taken to “Area X” which is where he was originally sent on his secret mission. Lena learns that her husband has fallen into a coma due to organ failure. There, in “Area X”, she is told that her husband is the first person to come out of “The Shimmer” after going in. Alongside psychologist Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh), paramedic (Gina Rodriguez), physicist (Tessa Thompson), and geologist (Tuva Novotny) Lena, who is a biologist, joins them as they get ready to enter The Shimmer. Once inside is when things begin to quickly go south for the team, waking up about four days later with no recollection as to how they got to where they were. In The Shimmer they encounter mutated animals, plants, and even more questions as to what exactly they are experiencing in this alien-like environment.

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From left to right, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Natalie Portman, Tuva Novonty, and Jennifer Jason Leigh entering “The Shimmer”

There are many questions being asked when watching Annihilation and throughout the first half of the film, I was under the impression that this was a typical sci-fi film that was dealing with human evolution as its main issue. Yea I was very wrong, it wasn’t till the second half of the film that I started to understand the deeper meaning that Garner was trying to get across and this was self-destruction or self “annihilation.” It’s clear now looking back on the film that this was the main theme.

When first walking into the Shimmer the group finds themselves disoriented as to how they got to where they were, quickly learning they had been inside four days and having no recollection of it. This is a reflection of depression and how you end up depressed but do not really understand how you came to be. But the main theme of depression happens in the film’s last twenty minutes when Lena encounters what seems to be an alien like version of herself. The life form mimics Lena in every aspect of her movements but every time she attempts to escape or fight back it attacks her even harder. This is depression and self-destruction attacking her with every attempt she finds herself trying to escape she keeps getting taken down by her own self.

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Lena (Natalie Portman) in Annihilation

Lena is able to overcome this alien and escapes the Shimmer to return back to be questioned and tested by scientists. As the film ends we see her and Kane hug only to see a shimmer in her eyes leaving the audience asking if it is truly Lena herself. Personally, I believe it to be her and I see this as a message of overcoming her depression but she is still changed after her experience and will never be the same.

Aside from the film’s themes, there are two minor nitpicks I had with it. Firstly, the character of Daniel played by David Gyasi was utterly pointless, rather than have a true purpose in the film he was used to only push an exposition that was not necessarily needed for the story being told. Had his character been cut from the film there would have been little to no difference in the story being told. An issue leading up to this film was that it would not perform well to a general audience because it may be “too smart” and I somewhat agree with this notion. Although I enjoyed the film at times it didn’t truly know what it wanted to be, for some scenes it would completely explain to the audience exactly what was going to act as a guide. While for the last twenty or so minutes it leaves its audience completely on their own. With the film somewhat suffering from an identity crisis in this aspect I felt it brought it down in that aspect. Lastly, I would say that this film does a poor job of creating a connection with the audience even though its themes are something that many people can relate to.

Overall, Annihilation is one of the better sci-fi films to come out in the past few years. Did I love it? No. Did I like it? Yes, but that is truly all I can say about it. Although this isn’t a film I would recommend to everyone, for those who love the sci-fi genre this is a film worth watching. Annihilation will create discussions and questions but this is not a film for the average moviegoer.

 

Final Grade: B+

 

 

 

 

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