“Annihilation” stars Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny, and Oscar Issac. Released on February 23, 2018, the film is about an expedition group who discovers something extremely haunting in an environmental quarantined zone.
The film is written and directed by Alex Garland, who also directed Ex Machina. It is based on the 2014 novel of the same name by Jeff VanderMeer. Garland has proven himself to be a confident visionary director when he made his directorial debut three years ago with Ex Machina, a film that made my top ten films of 2015 list. Now he’s continuing his career behind the camera by returning to the world of modern science fiction storytelling. This is another film that left the critics and the audiences divided, with the former liking it more than the latter, which isn’t too surprising because they always have different opinions. But where does that leave me in terms of my experience? Well, it’s not as thought-provoking as Garland’s last film, but I did walk out of the theater feeling impressed by its technical achievements.
Ranging from Natalie Portman as Lena to Oscar Isaac as her husband, the entire cast showed some effort in their performances, even though none of them stand out. At some parts, they sound a bit uninterested, but other than that, they did their parts quite well. The film offers some horror elements that may or may not be as frightening as the concept itself, but its main emphasis is the “science” part as it deals with cellular biology and how it shapes the organisms’ DNA in a quarantined zone known as “The Shimmer”. I think a lot of people who are into cellular biology will find plenty of stuff to enjoy in the midst of its usual science-fiction features. As for those who aren’t, well…it’s possible for me to say that this one is a tough sale. I think the reason why people aren’t liking it as much as the critics do is because they’re expecting it to be a straight-up sci-fi horror film based on the marketing. Rather, the film feels more like a science-filled exploration movie that happens to have a few “horror” moments thrown into the mix. This is the same mishap that “Mother!” experienced last year in terms of the difference between the marketing and the final cut, and look how that turned out. The film also has a few inconsistencies due to its pacing. It’s a pretty slow movie whose substance is interesting and creepy enough to carry itself through its shiny, yet dangerous, nightmare. There were also a couple of moments that either failed to make a big impact on its concept or were a tad underwhelming, such as the characters and the ending. However, the film makes up for its flaws by incorporating some of the most beautiful visuals that I’ve ever laid my eyes upon. Not only were they constructed perfectly to fit its lower budget, but they’re also as irresistible as looking through a kaleidoscope. The cinematography also helps in making the experience much more investing and vibrant.
Overall, “Annihilation” showcases Alex Garland’s impressive sense of vision and style, even though the story is far from brilliant. Despite its inconsistent pacing and a few underwhelming elements, the film delivers a fair amount of interest and eye-opening visuals to survive its extinction. It’s a good watch for those who are into well-written sci-fi films and cellular biology, but it would be hard for me to recommend it to people who wanted a regular horror film.