• Name: Annihilation
• Year: 2018
• Country: UK, USA
• Director: Alex Garland
• Main cast: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson
• Runtime: 115 minutes
• Production company: DNA Films, Paramount Pictures, Scott Rudin Productions
Annihilation (2018) was presented to the world with an unfair halo of controversy, when Paramount, the producers of the film, fearing a box office crash because it was “too intellectual for the big audiences”, decided to sell the worldwide distribution rights, except for the USA and China, to streaming platform Netflix. For many, including its director Alex Garland, was a big insult to a movie that clearly has been designed to be watched on a big screen. Does a movie like Annihilation (2018) deserve a treatment like this? Surely not. As in Europe, I was one of the people who watched the movie on my home screen, but I hope sooner or later I can see it in a big theater.
Leaving this controversy aside, and after digesting the watching of the movie for 3 days, I think I am in the position to say Annihilation (2018) is for sure one of the best and most complete science fiction movies in many many years. And this is going to be very hard for me not to drop any spoiler, because it’s such an epic movie, so complex but at the same time so simple, that the temptation is strong. Some other day perhaps I publish a dissection and analysis of this movie, but right now it’s review time. And no spoilers, I promise.
Although he already had an extense background as a movie writer with outstanding titles like 28 Days Later… (2002), Sunshine (2007) Never Let Me Go (2010) and Dredd (2012), Annihilation (2018) is only Alex Garland’s second movie as a director after the fantastic Ex Machina (2014) –watch our review here–. But despite this short career behind the cameras, the British filmmaker already shows a very personal and refined style. This is the kind of movie where every frame is showing more than it seems. Information flows from every image like running water from the faucet. In fact, water is a very important element in Annihilation (2018), for water is where life is formed. And this is a movie about life. Science, fiction or not, is a very important piece in Garland’s works. The conversations are important in this movie, but what they really mean is more important than what they say. So one must pay attention and be aware to be able to absorb all the information that the filmmaker wants to share.
This movie is an adaptation of the first book of the trilogy called Southern Reach Trilogy written by Jeff VanderMeer. Alex Garland wrote the screenplay adaptation himself, not only using the first book but taking elements from the whole series. And not everything is like portraited in the books, since the filmmaker definitely took the choice of making the story his own and imprint his own point of view of the whole story.
Almost every aspect of the movie is remarkable. I have to admit I didn’t connect with some visual tricks or choices, and perhaps there were too many CGI effects I’m not a fan of. But that is my personal opinion since all those effects serve the goal the director wanted to reach. The soundtrack of the film, especially towards the end of its running time, is the perfect definition of how sound or music should be at the service of the movie action. No unnecessary sound effects, only that collection of musical feelings and mood matching together what the images are creating. Like a big band, everything works fine and in harmony.
In the acting terrain, Natalie Portman gets the movie on her back being present in almost every scene of the film, with the perfect mix of measure and intensity needed. The rest of the cast serve perfect to their roles, making all the scientific expedition members loveable and credible. Perhaps the character played by Oscar Isaac seems to be a little distant and disconnected from the whole play but, perhaps that’s what they wanted to achieve! After all, this is a movie that plays with the spectator’s feelings and thoughts, and every single piece of acting, sound, set decoration and camera frame is clearly carefully calculated.
I don’t understand and honestly don’t share this idea that Annihilation (2018) is too intellectual for the big audiences. In a superficial view, it has a big influence by some of the most celebrated science fiction movies of all time, Alien (1979), Predator (1987) and The Thing (1982). Who is to say that these 3 movies are too much for nowadays audience? Did we really get that dumb? Although it is true that the flair of other titles with a deeper disposition like 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Solaris (1972) and the more recent Under the Skin (2013) are also surrounding the film. But I am sure Annihilation (2018) has lectures for everyone. It has some very intense and jumpy action scenes. It has bureaucratic plots and mysteries and it has a bunch of very well character built scientists in a mission to the unknown. It has all the ingredients for a successful blockbuster. But it has much much more if you want to sit tight and think, dig into the story. Who are we? Where do you come from and, most importantly, what are we going to become? Is it good or bad? It’s neither good or bad, it just is.
This was a quite exciting but hard review to write, especially avoiding to spoil any of the plots, twists and secrets of the movie, as I mentioned before. But it was a great job to write it. I am sure I could have said much more, and many other people would highlight other things from this movie to comment on a review of this sort. But this is what I felt I had to share at this moment, and at least I hope this text intrigued the readers enough for them to go watch Annihilation (2018). So you all get your own conclusions and reflexions. Because I honestly think this is the best science fiction movie we’re going to have for a long time, and that Alex Garland deserves full attention to any next project he’s involved in.
IMDB URL: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2798920
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