As it starts, Lena, a biologist, sits in a glassy room, questioned by a scientist in protection equipment who stands over her. She says she has no recollection on whatever just happened, compelling the viewer to remember events as she does. After photos in Lena’s sepia-tinted home illustrate her husband’s army life, he returns, devoid of previous recollection himself as to how he returned. Outside her own awareness, a comet strikes a lighthouse, warps its sense of shape or texture, then sets off an expanding rainbow bubble, its shimmery wall set to mutate cell reproduction.
Paralleling scene number one, Lena questioning her husband’s activity in war reverses her interrogation; she stands over him slumped in his seat. Once seated across each other at the table, held hands reflected backwards behind a water glass, his blood appears in said glass, the first sign of his multiple organ failure. Any focus on their eyes throughout this crisis implements whenever they witness obliteration, up until the last frame addresses all you need to know and all you wish to know.
I love underseen independent films like Annihilation, those following nontraditional narrative conventions to take creative liberties in discussing the inner human condition. Alex Garland already perfectly accomplished his breakout art-house feature Ex Machina, so now he brings out another visual delight in his second project, thus far the only movie of 2018 I’ve anticipated the release of!
Garland conveys his actors’ own bent genes, each performance almost appearing alien in a series unevenly blank appearances. Of the talented cast members, Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina, Inside Llewyn Davis) happily sells it best as Lena’s husband. His illness deflects his voice to transparently reveal the sad lack of identity in his eyes: a slow, troubled, very real war veteran. It’s easy to see why Garland works well off Mr. Isaac!
Besides Garland’s attentive direction, the work by production designer Mark Digby (Ex Machina, Slumdog Millionaire) symbolically suggests a DNA strand’s deconstruction and reconstruction. You always seem boxed inside a different world larger than life in the Shimmer’s chaotic colors chosen to suggest self-destruction in a stark contrast against Lena’s boxy interrogation room. Inside the void grows beautiful yet strange flowers living together on a single branch, despite being of diverse species, alongside some technicolor moss and man-shaped bushes. These outlandish mutations hold beauty, although plenty of gruesome, supernatural appearances never shy away from any bodily imagery in its graphic detail that catches you off guard.
But honestly, Alex Garland has got room for improvement, particularly in helping the typical viewer care about the story. The on-the-nose dialogue said by such cold characters also tosses out more expositional information than the average viewer could handle, especially in the first act, all writing the names in the script out to model figures of altered chromosomes rather than well-fleshed out people.
This excess of information attempts to counteract the lack of sincere emotion with a cliché catalyst of Lena’s husband leaving her alone, a plot device done rather weakly compared to other similar scripts. Further validating the cliché, Lena cheats on her husband, in turn making her less sympathetic—would you root for some unfaithful whore? I sure wouldn’t! Especially since Lena expresses few tangible opinions about her team of four other women in their mission through the Shimmer, older viewers might not embrace something as absurd as this journey into the unknown.
However, Annihilation still meets the expectations of art cinema lovers in Alex Garland’s near-horror approach. In each disorienting time narrative beneath the Shimmer, suspense eliminates clear signs of what happens next. Soon, after several attacks by a creature shrouded in darkness, a horrific faceless bear’s roar mixed with a woman’s screams leaves both everything and nothing to the imagination. These are not the types of images you’re able to forget easily, regardless of whether you want it to.
With these brave woman leaders who willingly face up to such horrors previously unimagined, they warn us all, of our eventual end as we watch their individual paths to insanity inside the Shimmer. Likewise, this alternate future’s continental board steers clear of personal demolition, suggesting that the damaged male leaders in the United States wrongly believe women are the true unidentifiable Extra-Terrestrials in the foreign land that is masculine privilege. Considering Hollywood’s confused gender equality nonsense, it deserves some compliments when a motion picture like this one empowers women without devaluing men; they remind us that if equal treatment to both sides is achieved, we have no need to fear an annihilation.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
Annihilation. Paramount Pictures. Web. <https://www.paramount.com/movies/annihilation>.
Sims, David. “The Problem With Annihilation’s Messy Release.” Digital image. The Atlantic. The Atlantic Monthly Group, 31 Jan 2018. Web. <https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2018/01/annihilation-paramount-netflix/551810/>.