D: Alex Garland
Paramount/Netflix/Skydance/DNA (Scott Rudin, Andrew MacDonald, Allon Reich & Eli Bush)
UK/USA 🇬🇧 🇺🇸 2018
W: Alex Garland [based on the novel by Jeff VanderMeer]
DP: Rob Hardy
Ed: Barney Pilling
Mus: Ben Salisbury & Geoff Barrow
Natalie Portman (Lena), Jennifer Jason Leigh (Dr. Ventress), Gina Rodriguez (Anya Thorensen), Tessa Thompson (Josie Radek), Tuva Novotny (Cass Sheppard), Oscar Isaac (Kane)
Annihilation is a tricky film to review, since the story presented can be accepted by the viewer in different ways.
On one hand, I do like films which provoke discourse and debate. It's a facet of filmmaking which can be quite underused and often films like this are exposed to the wrong audience. On the flip side, films which have a very ambiguous story, especially about existentialism, seem quite pretentious, and it feels as though they only exist so film students can muse and debate about what it all means in the grand scheme of things... much like existentialism itself. For me, Annihilation is one of those films.
Based on the first book of Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach Trilogy, the plot sees four women biologists venture beyond "The Shimmer", an abandoned area protected by a wall of light which has been significantly changed after being struck by a meteor.
Once inside this area, they find that science and time have been drastically altered, before they make a more startling discovery.
Some may not agree, but I found the pacing of this film incredibly dull, and though there are some scenes which are effective, the narrative gets bogged down with a couple of subplots which don't need to be included (Natalie Portman's character having an affair, etc), as they add nothing to the story except for endless debate.
Comparisons could be made with Under The Skin, or even Ex Machina, both of which are films which I really enjoyed, but I really didn't take to this one... and I'm not really up for debating it too much. For me, it is what it is.
It's also been said that it's quite important to have read VanderMeer's trilogy, which I consider a huge restriction when it comes to film adaptations as it's automatically shunning audiences. Books and films are completely different mediums and should always be treated as such.
Love it or hate it, you have to admit that there are flaws and you can also appreciate that Alex Garland has tried to do something bold and experimental. Unfortunately, I don't think this is anywhere as good as it could have been. I also think it was given a disservice by being distributed internationally by Netflix, preventing a film of such visual weight from being experienced on a big screen.
Award Wins & Nominations:
MILSTEAD MOVIE AWARDS:
Chicago Film Critics (Best Visual Effects); CinEuphoria Awards (Best Art Direction, Best Visual Effects); Denver Film Critics (Best Sci-Fi / Horror Film); Dorian Awards (Most Visually Striking Film of the Year); Golden Schmoes (Most Underrated Film of the Year, Trippiest Film of the Year); Online Film Critics (Best Visual Effects); Phoenix Critics Circle (Best Sci-Fi Movie); Utah Film Critics (Best Original Score)