Written and directed by Alex Garland, “Annihilation” is the most recent science fiction horror film to hit theaters. The film stars Natalie Portman as a botanist named Lena.
The film focuses on a small group of people signing up for an expedition to go to an unknown area that is called the shimmer. Scientists try to find out what is inside of it. Dr. Ventress played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, Anya Thorensen played by Gina Rodriguez, Josie Radek played by Tessa Thompson and Cass Sheppard played by Tuva Novotny go in to see what they can discover. Their journey through the shimmer turns out to be much more erratic than they realized.
The film is an adaptation of the first book in a trilogy written by Jeff VanderMeer. When Garland started adapting the story, there was only one novel published. Garland chose not to think about how the rest of the books would turn out. The film has some major differences from the trilogy, but that cannot be considered a flaw since Garland’s intention was to only follow the main story line of the first novel.
“Annihilation” really plays on the science fiction genre in order to establish crucial plot elements. It is a cerebral film that makes the audience think about the implications that the film conveys. It is a fun film that presents some strange and original entities along with some small action sequences. It has many scenes that might be considered to be open to interpretation. The film really forces viewers to make connections. Garland incorporates mythology within the film rather than simply having a basic science fiction film that revolves around survival to the fittest like “Alien.”
The special effects in “Annihilation” were very impressive. The shimmer has a brilliant translucent wall that separates the mutated landscape area from the human habitat. The film has multicolored surroundings that create an uneasy look. The visual effects used for the mutated animals were a major spectacle. Their appearance was similar to regular animals but with altered body parts. Overall, the use of cinematography helped establish the environment as a form of sickness. There was definitely something unnatural about the shimmer.
A fascinating thing that the film touched on was how people interpret evil. Most science fiction films interpret evil as something dangerous. The being within the film is not necessarily evil, but it has a need to frighten people. Through the being, the film pushed audiences to look outside of their own perspective.
One of the film’s flaws was how the director incorporated the sub-plot into the story. The sub-plot involves Portman’s character and a professor. It was there to create tension and conflict for her character. Garland clearly wanted to add more depth to Portman’s character, but he was not able to carry that through for the entire film. It did not add anything to the story at all, making it unnecessary.
“Annihilation” does a beautiful job establishing a dangerous yet blossoming world. It is something worth watching and science fiction fans would definitely enjoy it.