Annihilation Review: “Annihilation,” directed by Alex Garland; is a brilliant and unnerving film that doesn't fit neatly into the same categories as many recent sci-fi films.
Sci-fi is omnipresent in the late '10s; whether it's huge films like “Blade Runner 2049” or Netflix originals like “Mute” and “The Cloverfield Paradox;” with most of it owing a great lot to a combination of Stanley Kubrick's “2001;” Ridley Scott's “Blade Runner;” and the Wachowskis' “The Matrix.”
Even in this renaissance; you'll rarely see a picture constructed on the blueprints of Tarkovsky's “Solaris” or “Stalker;” films that used sci-fi in an unsettling; emotional way because that type of filmmaking is exceedingly difficult to pull off.
It's so difficult that when Paramount watched “Annihilation,” they had no idea what to do with it, scarcely promoting it, keeping it from the press until a few days before its release, and selling it to Netflix for worldwide distribution.
Perhaps they're still stinging from the failure of “mother!” yet they've buried a genre gem here, an ambitious, complex piece of art that will be scrutinized for years. Don't overlook it.
In the first few scenes of “Annihilation,” a meteor appears to strike a lighthouse.
A woman is interrogated by a man dressed in a hazmat suit, we assume.
Even though they aren't in the same room with her, they watch the interrogation through the glass and wear safety masks.
What Is the Name of This Lady? Why Is She Being Treated So Badly?
Returning to a time before Lena (Natalie Portman) was perhaps radioactive, we guess.
When her missing husband—who has been gone on a covert operation for a year and is presumed KIA—walks up the stairs and into her bedroom, Lena appears to be just about ready to move on from her grief.
Even if Kane (Oscar Isaac) is at home, something is amiss right away.
Garland gives us a lively, smiling Kane in a fleeting flashback, so we, the viewers, can sense something is wrong with the dead-eyed man in front of her, just as Lena does.
Garland is amazing in the way he parcels out information with a fast scene, phrase, flashback, and so on—giving us exactly what we need to digest and evaluate the situation in front of us but still staying one step ahead and making us hungry to catch up. Kane then begins to vomit blood.
What Kind of Movie Is Annihilation?
Lena is soon taken to the Southern Reach, a research center a few miles from the lighthouse seen in the opening scene.
She sees what can only be described as a rainbow wall on the horizon, near a tree line. Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh) tells her it's called “The Shimmer,” and they've been looking into it for three years.
No radio signals have returned past The Shimmer, and no manned missions have yielded a survival… until her husband. It's assumed that something in there kills individuals or that people go insane and murder one another.
Lena, Dr. Ventress, and three other characters—tough-talking Anya (Gina Rodriguez), meek Josie (Tessa Thompson), and sweet Cass (Tuva Novotny)—will enter The Shimmer, reach the lighthouse, and then return. Maybe.
If you're wondering how much of the review has been spoiled so far, the answer is nearly nothing.
Once the squad enters the woods, “Annihilation” truly becomes itself, a fascinating location for a sci-fi film that progressively exposes itself.
Even though this is not an extraterrestrial planet, there is a sense of danger and biological abnormality in these forests.
Garland offers just enough information at each turn to keep us guessing while simultaneously immersing us at the moment with Lena and the team.
It's a picture that manages to combine disorientation with grounded performances from its actors, keeping us invested in each interaction and believing the danger as it unfolds.
“Annihilation” had the potential to be campy or stupid.
You might chuckle if I described some of the film's worse parts, but Garland manages to make the insane work, and watching him do so is energizing.
What Does the Ending of Annihilation Mean?
The film's final scene is the most ambiguous, as we see Kane, who has healed, and Lena reunited.
She realizes that this Kane isn't her Kane, but rather a clone manufactured inside the lighthouse.
They're both “survivors,” and his experience has forever affected him.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Annihilation 2 Coming Out?
In the end, a sequel does not appear likely. Annihilation had a weak box office opening due to its limited global release.
So it appears that Paramount Pictures has already abandoned its new franchise before it has even begun.
At the very least, Alex Garland has written another fantastic science fiction story.
Is Annihilation Worth Watching?
Annihilation is one of those films that is tough to forget.
It's high-concept science fiction at its most ambitious, if not perfected, level.
It's a film that has permanently burned pictures into my mind.
I can recall the full climactic lighthouse sequence now that I think about it.