Annihilation is a horror, sci-fi movie written and directed by Alex Garland (most known for Ex Machina) and stars Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Oscar Isaac. The movie follows Natalie Portman’s character as she travels into a mysterious zone, where weird stuff happens; as always this is what little I knew before watching the movie, and I strongly encourage not knowing too much before watching any movie. The main reasons I was excited to watch this movie, were the creative staff in-front and behind the camera, and my love of the genres it categorized itself in; Alex Garland is mainly known for Ex Machina (a movie I love) but he also worked on 28 days later, Sunshine, Dredd and Enslaved: Odyssey to the West- with the first 3 being great movies and the last being a really good video game- thus his body of work was enough to make me interested in his projects, while the people in-front of the camera, are some of the best actors and actresses working today. Furthermore, the movie seemed to be aiming for a more contemplative experience, set in a sci-fi/horror setting, which was an intriguing proposition. As a side note, I would like to mention that, although the movie isn’t trying to have a twisting narrative with mind-bending revelations, I won’t discuss any aspect of the story explicitly, because had I knew more than what little I knew, it would have made my experience worst.
And that’s how this movie should be looked at; as an experience. As a visual experience, it is an excellent one; vibrant colors, beautiful natural environments shot with wide angles, visual effects that disturb the viewer and make them inquisitive.
I loved the visual work of the movie, but there were some effects that looked off, considering the other effects, and took me out of the moment, however there were some that were incredibly memorable and stuck with me, long after the movie was over. As an auditory experience, Annihilation has some excellent moments, like the trippy sequence near the end, but it was a bit subdued overall; especially in moments where I thought that music would enhance and complete these sequences, the audio was forgettable and stuck in the background.
These two experiences are not separate though; they work in conjunction, alongside the story, to give the viewer a contemplative and philosophical exploration on certain themes and this is where Annihilation gets interesting to talk about.
It’s a bold and risky movie that wants to explore several themes, some that are open to interpretation and some that are more obvious (like the tendencies of mankind to self-destruct), which in turn, can make the reception to it very divisive; I like it a lot, but I can see how someone could hate it. For me though, I watched the movie and dissected it with my own views and interpretations for what it was trying to say and for what it was actually about; there were some loose ends that didn’t make sense in my interpretation, but that only made me watch it again and pick up on more clues and hints, which did validate my views in some ways.
However, I realized that Annihilation succeeded in what it was attempting, when I started comparing my interpretation with others; in some degree, they all worked and held some validity, which is the trademark of a good movie that allows for personal interpretation. Furthermore, I like a lot of the pacing and editing decisions made; some were a bit too confusing and jarring, but some provided necessary elements of such movies like tension and gore. In addition, I really enjoyed the monster design; it was nightmarish and inspired.
As a closing remark, I will say this: If you want a straightforward narrative that is more interested in horror and sci-fi, Annihilation is not your kind of movie. The actual, literal story is vague, confusing and uninspired, if taken at face-value, so it probably won’t satisfy you. Annihilation is, without a doubt, a movie about exploring certain themes, from a visual and metaphorical perspective; these themes are going to make some viewers feel uneasy, while some visuals are not for the easily-startled.
For me, this movie worked, but as I said, this is a bold movie and, as such, it is bound to make people react differently to it, however I strongly encourage people to give such movies a chance, even if they may end up not liking it. It’s these types of movies that bring new and interesting ideas to the medium, and supporting them will eventually lead studios, to allow creative people the means to pursue and create their own unique and fresh ideas.