In an attempt to amp up my movie badges, (These are metaphorical badges, not something bestowed upon me by Fandango or anything) I decided that Annihilation would be the next film I delved into after the blowout of Black Panther. (Check out that review here!) Plus, a cute girl told me it reminded her of the Fountain. Yes, my movie preferences may be based on the cuteness of women and my favorite Aronofsky films. I was intrigued, but anxious about this film. Mostly because I loved Ex Machina, a previous Alex Garland film, and didn’t want to compare visuals, Still, this movie was at the top of my ‘to see’ list so I went for it. I went into the Shimmer if you will and came out thinking that it was aggressively O.K. Allow me to elaborate, but first, allow me to summarize.
As an adaption of Jeff VanderMeer’s first novel in the Southern Reach trilogy, Annihilation opens with a vacant-looking Natalie Portman (Lena) being interrogated by a strange man in a hazmat suit surrounded by other strange people in hazmat suits. He badgers her about what she experienced in the Shimmer, asking her what happened to her other team members, how long was she out there, what did she eat while inside etc. She stares at him, cracked lips and all, and simply says “I don’t know.”
From there, we are taken back to the past, where yet another somber Natalie Portman resides. This time she’s a biologist who is forced to cope with the potential death of her soldier husband who has gone MIA. But he not dead. He comes back to their home as she sobs and paints their bedroom; their awkward re-encounter happens and they both seem confused but elated to see each other. He answered her questions about where have you been? Why haven’t you contacted me with the same answer she had given previously to hazmat suit guy: “I don’t know.”
He gets sick suddenly, after drinking water. They are in an ambulance. It gets hijacked. Lena wakes up in a facility and pukes as Jennifer Jason Leigh (Dr. Ventress) watches. Once Lena gets her wits about her, the good doctor Ventress (a psychologist) explains to Lena her husband’s condition and what he had been doing while on his mission. She goes into detail about the Shimmer, or “Area X”, a soapy, oily force field that has taken over a part of the Everglades. It’s mysterious, it’s unsettling and no one has come out alive to tell the tales of what’s inside. (CUE Thriller cackle) Ventress even goes as far to ominously say, “We have many theories, few facts.” an almost meta description of this film and what I ended up taking away from it.
Lena decides to join the band of not so merry women who are set to enter the Shimmer next. A heroic team lead by a seemingly tattered Dr. Ventress, a sly smiling physicist named Josie (Tessa Thompson), Cass, a soft-spoken, yet troubled looking anthropologist (Tuva Novotny). As well as the more vocal, very sexy stedfast medic (and lesbian!) Anya (Gina Rodriguez). The band of sisters dives into the shimmering barrier soon after enjoying a beer together and shit starts to get weird. Real fast.
This is a mostly woman cast. Something we still don’t see enough of in the movies. Not only that, but these women are badasses being called in after all the dudes before them died. Does that make them crazy? Probably, but it also makes them beasts. The heinous tortures they face come at them tenfold. Yet, somehow they still find the moxie to trudge through and explore when every instinct in their bodies had to be telling them to get the fuck out of dodge.They try to stick together, but there’s only so much you can do in the Shimmer.
Can we talk about this creepy ass bear for a second? I seriously am not sure I’ve seen something as frightening in a movie as that creature. Not quite bear, but not quite whatever the hell else it might have been, this asshole with seemingly no eyes, speaks the voices of its victims. It’s something you have to experience because once you’ve seen it, you can’t unsee it.
This is without question a visual journey more than anything else.It’s the heart eye emoji portion of this movie.The aesthetics were addicting and very much reminded me of the Fountain without being at all like the Fountain. (Thanks, cute girl.) Everything is sickeningly beautiful, yet macabre in the most elegant way. It’s extravagant in its excess and nothing seems to be quite right which makes even the most vibrant flowers seem haunting and unsettling. By far my favorite aspect of this film.
The vibe of this movie was equally ominous. Somehow Garland finds a way to make the viewer anxious at the thought of the characters peril and what it is that they would be facing next. The tension is palpable as the women delve deeper into the Shimmer, and I found myself asking who the real killer was; the Shimmer itself or the human psyche?
The premise of this film was almost mind-bogglingly muddy and is what I maintain as Annihilation’s biggest fault. There seemed to be no real sentimental or emotional ties. Instead, what was given seemed so surface that I wondered if these glimpses into Lena’s life were afterthoughts and only tacked on once the thrill of the effects had made their mark. Even the characters seemed to not be sure what the plot was. I can understand that the Shimmer is a shroud of mystery, but I would have expected to find out more than what the movie had first microscopically alluded to.
It is one thing to remain vague and to allow viewers the option to debate story morals, but it’s another to leave such an open-ended question that one doesn’t feel guided to perceive the events as something other than “I don’t know.” But maybe that’s the point? It’s ambiguous. Not generically so but that still didn’t stop me from shrugging my shoulders once I left the theater. I ultimately felt emotionally empty save for the goosebumps left by that damn screaming bear.
In The End:
I appreciated the high-brow, sci-fi, visually exceptional aspects of this film. It’s tense, terrifying and evolutionary in the sense of the movie’s antagonistic plot. Even the cyclical concepts of life, nature, death, and rebirth were eye-catching. We root for humanity, but the film’s Indeterminate context left me wondering if that’s what I was supposed to be doing, or if I missed the point altogether.
Worth a watch on the big screen. Details and concepts were enough to keep me on the edge of my seat even when the context felt like static between my ears. Still, Annihilation is so stunning that it’s worth experiencing in those fancy reclining seats.
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Have you seen Annihilation yet? Any cute girls recommend you something we should see too? Let us know in the comments!
This movie was good. The graphics were good. The acting was good. But the story was muddy and way too ambiguous.