annihilationSTARS3.5Annihilation is one of those sci-fi features that doesn’t pander to viewers’ thirst for answers. It is a demonstration of narrative ambiguity. Understand that before you begin to watch and you’ll enjoy the developments more. This is the much-anticipated follow-up to Alex Garland’s critically acclaimed, 2015 directorial debut, Ex Machina. Garland is an English novelist (The Beach) turned screenwriter (28 Days Later, Sunshine) turned director. The jack of all trades has seen success in his many efforts. All of which makes the expectations for another sci-fi endeavor like Annihilation even higher. I really liked this film, but I fell short of loving it.

The story concerns Lena (Natalie Portman), a professor of cellular biology. Right from the beginning, she is being cross-examined after having already undergone a government expedition into a scientific phenomenon known as the Shimmer. We know she made it out, but what exactly is the Shimmer? It all began when a meteor crashed into the earth and created a slowly growing otherworldly area. Perceptibly it’s this glistening, sparkling force field that encompasses an area where a lot of unexplained things are occurring. Annihilation is a vividly captivating production that includes fractal designs, gaseous forms, and metallic shapes. There is a biological element to the Shimmer too as its colorful effects are felt upon the flora and fauna within. It involves an amorphous terror we don’t understand. In the U.S. this debuted in theaters where the film’s impressive visual effects and sound design could be appreciated. The spectacle is a major part of the appeal. Internationally the movie went straight to Netflix which deprived those audiences of the full experience.

In flashback, we learn that Lena’s husband Kane (Oscar Isaac) is the only person that has ever actually returned from entering the Shimmer. He was part of a military excursion a year prior. He becomes very ill. On the way to the hospital, he and his wife Lena are ambushed by a government security force and taken into some secret research compound in close proximity to the Shimmer. There she meets Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a psychologist. She’s forming another expedition. After Lena’s husband falls into a coma, Lena agrees to accompany Dr. Ventress’ all-female patrol which also includes Josie Radek (Tessa Thompson), a physicist, Anya Thorensen (Gina Rodriguez), a paramedic and Cass Sheppard (Tuva Novotny), a surveyor/geologist

Annihilation is a tale where the less revealed, the better. The developmental incidents utilize the building blocks of other pictures: Alien, The Thing, Contagion. Yet Annihilation is different than those features because the screenplay doesn’t clarify much. As a result, director Alex Garland is quite successful in creating an impending sense of dread without me being able to fully explain why.  This is fine.  It is a movie to savor not to reveal.  This is a well assembled creepy adventure.  However, the chronicle is so narratively vague it’s hard to embrace.  Despite the ambiguity, the plot is easy to understand.  Only in the final act do things get somewhat baffling.  The denouement is perplexing. Lena’s plan to escape will ultimately leave you with more questions than answers. Still, I’ll concede that the desire to overanalyze things can be a weakness in genre films. To its credit, the final outcome remains mysteriously uncertain.


16 Responses to “Annihilation”

  1. I wish this wasn’t such a slow paced movie. It kinda dragged. However, I was caught up in the mystery and couldn’t wait to find the answers. Loved all the colorful effects. 3 1/2 stars


  2. Lovely write-up. I can’t wait to see this one as I was massively looking forward to it, but then have paradoxically stalled on actually watching it… strange times.


    • In its 2nd week, Annihilation slipped out of the Top 5 to #6 with a mere $5.6M. It’s clear this won’t even make its $40M production budget. This movie was better than that.


  3. It is such a shame how the international markets, I guess excluding China which will get it in theaters, will be deprived of the films full visual impact. Movies need to be experienced on the big screen, not an index-card-sized one lol.

    That said, no amount of extra screen space can really make those final 20 or so minutes any less ambiguous and baffling. I think I loved what it was suggesting, but I’m not even sure if I have read it right.

    Nice review ! You perfectly worded several elements that I really loved.


    • I keep saying index-card-sized screens. I have been in the middle of a blackout fr the past 48 hours and so the only way I have been able to watch stuff is via my phone. I suppose TVs and computers are a bit bigger than an index card. haha! But still . . .


    • I’m not sure I read it right either. I think the ending was somewhat ominous. Definitely a thought provoker.

      Oh and I’m noticing cell phones just keep getting bigger and bigger. Remember when they kept getting smaller?


      Liked by 1 person

    • I agree👍…100%


  4. Martin1250 Says:

    i’m definitely looking forward to this film. The Beach, 28 Days Later, and Sunshine are good writing credentials.


  5. I’m looking forward to this movie. Great review.


  6. I loved the movie. The ending is one I did not see coming.👍


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