FRIDAY NIGHT MOVIE REVIEW: “Annihilation” stars Natalie Portman (Star Wars: Episode III- Revenge of the Sith, Thor), Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina, Star Wars: Episode VII- The Force Awakens), Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight, Anomalisa), Gina Rodriguez (Deepwater Horizon, Jane the Virgin [TV series]), Tuva Novotny (Eat Pray Love, The Invisible), Tessa Thompson (Creed, Thor: Ragnarok), Benedict Wong (Doctor Strange, The Martian), and David Gyasi (Interstellar, Cloud Atlas). It is directed by Alex Garland (Ex Machina, Devs [TV movie]), who also wrote the screenplay. Lena (Portman), a biologist, chooses to venture into the Shimmer, an otherworldly mass that is slowly expanding over the surface of the earth, threatening humanity’s existence. With her is a ragtag group of females, all specializing in fields of science, in hopes of figuring out what this strange phenomenon is, as everyone who has entered it from the government has never come out…that is, until Lena’s husband, Kane (Isaac), returns, having changed.
If you’re looking for a film that makes you feel like your on an acid trip by its end, “Annihilation” is the right one for you! Seriously guys, there’s some crazy things that happen in this feature, so much so that it’s difficult to really figure out what the heck happened during the whole venture. Is that a good thing? It’s unpredictable so it has to be, right? Let’s talk about it. My interest in this picture only piqued when it got relatively generous reviews from critics. The trailers looked like a bloated CGI mess of who knows what starring people I don’t really care for besides Oscar Isaac (sorry Natalie Portman. You’re a good actress, just one I don’t follow closely). But, maybe the critics are right; maybe this is something worth paying two bucks for at the Redbox. If there’s anything to say about “Annihilation,” it’s that it’s very interesting. The fact that I couldn’t predict a single thing that would happen in this besides a few small details (certain things that beg to be read quick) makes for a flick worth exploring in and of itself, however what I found wasn’t all fantastic. The movie is based on a book that seemingly jumped through many hoops to confuse audiences by use of visual metaphors and psychedelic imagery. Our characters have to get to the heart of this metaphysical mass called the Shimmer in hopes of destroying it before it absorbs the whole world. In this mass, a lot of crap goes down and hardly any of it is explained; not that it has to be, but it does throw you for a loop and can get exhausting trying to wrap your head around (specifically the bizarre ending). I was intrigued by the situation our characters were in more than the characters themselves. If there’s one thing to predict, it’s their personalities and how they’ll react to certain things. We all know from the get-go that some people may die (what’s a sci-fi flick without stakes?), so it’s only a matter of waiting and observing. For the most part, I was entertained by the story. The characters were not as desirable as I wanted them to be, with the only rewarding performances/players coming from Portman, Isaac, and Jennifer Jason Leigh (who even at times could be a bit one-sided). Most of the drawl comes from the world the Shimmer presents and how our heroes will be attacked and possibly killed. I liked the species created by this mass and the exploration of it, as it was teeming with sci-fi goodness fit for any lover of the genre. At times it was even scary as some of the CGI and make-up work was done really well. There’s entertainment to be found through this, however it certainly has various aspects that make it hard to come back to. The first would be the ending. While I give the filmmakers kudos for throwing me for a loop, I couldn’t understand a single thing that was going on. Of course, there’s a few things that are easy to pick up, but hardly is there any closure to be found in this piece. The film builds itself around two things: the exploration of the Shimmer and the character arc of Natalie Portman, who has seemingly lost her husband to this thing. It’s a balancing act that, more often than not, tips into focusing solely on the Shimmer with only a few sprinkles of Portman’s arc, making it seem jarring or over-exaggerated at times (the whole flashback with her and her boss could’ve been ditched). I didn’t feel enough of an emotional pull from her character other than what she had to go through in that stinkin’ crazy atmosphere of the Shimmer. The same went for the other people who were given slight backstories, mostly through other people speaking for them (the worst of which came from the man in the hazmat suit talking to Portman about Jason Leigh’s character). I’m not saying that the characters were awful; I just think that there was more to be desired on that end. Otherwise, this is a relatively decent feature that excites with its visuals and exploration. I was engaged throughout the whole experience due to its interesting nature, and the fact that I had no clue what these characters were up against made for an even more fun night. The only thing holding it back, besides the shaky ending, is its loose character development. If it was carved out more, we would’ve been in for a better feature to experience. FINAL SCORE: 76%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer: