Annihilation

Annihilation ★★

“Annihilation” is a muddled mess that seems to throw several ideas at the wall to see if they stick. Writer/director Alex Garland showed his chops with his directorial debut “Ex Machina” which is a Sci-Fi masterpiece. I had high hopes for “Annihilation” based on his previous effort, the trailer and the high scores on Rotten Tomatoes. Plus, Natalie Portman is usually pretty awesome in everything she does.
Unfortunately, I was disappointed greatly.
The premise is that Portman plays a former Army soldier turned biologist who hasn’t seen her husband in a year since he disappeared on an unknown military mission. He comes home but he appears to very different and he falls ill. She is brought to a military compound outside of a zone called “The Shimmer,” a rainbow-like haze that growing and taking over a swampland ecosystem, mutating and changing the environment. Anyone who goes in doesn’t come out: either being killed by something or possibly going crazy and killing each other. An all-female team is sent in for a reason that’s not truly explained.
What follows is a beautifully shot movie with a promising concept. It all feels like a dream and the gruesome visceral action scenes truly grab you but they’re few and far between and without any weight or meaning.
Those that read the novel this is based on tell me that Garland strays heavily from the source material. That usually doesn’t bother me, especially since I didn’t read this book, but just watching this movie it just looks like a great idea that wasn’t translating well to the big screen.
It’s slowly paced, which is fine, but our patience isn’t rewarded in the end. The big climax — I don’t even want to call it a twist since nothing is really resolved and you’re left too many unanswered questions — is underwhelming. It looks cool but it’s pretty empty. The ending felt like cotton candy: whispy and energizing but gone too soon leaving you nothing to sink your teeth into and really chew on.
This movie really should be made for me. I love heady Sci-Fi that gives me themes I can really analyze and debate. I love cinematography that makes a magical world feel real. You really feel the suspense and danger as our heroines trek through this unknown land. It’s got the pieces but they aren’t executed properly and it never really comes together.
The movie itself doesn’t really know what it wants to be or what it’s about. Is it a Sci-Fi horror thriller or is it a philosophical film? I guess it’s both but it felt like it was just mirroring several other films without a true identity of its own.
I wanted to look this movie and it’s not terrible but it is a disappointment because it could have been so much better.

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