Annihilation Movie Review
Fascinating, beautiful and unpredictable, Annihilation is an entrancing sci-fi thriller that plays to your intellect while still offering up enough scares and excitement to satiate people who don’t want to bang their heads against a wall. Directed by Alex Garland, the movie isn’t nearly as perfect as his last venture Ex Machina, but it’s a satisfying, fast-paced adventure worth seeing on the big screen.
It’s biggest shortcoming: many, though not all, of the surprises, shocks and shares, were teased in the trailers.
Natalie Portman is solid as she leads a primarily female cast consisting of Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tuva Novotny and Tessa Thompson. Oscar Isaac plays an important role as well.
The women form a team to venture into the Shimmer, an expanding bubble into which other people have entered, but none, save for one, have returned. Inside they encounter weird-ass creatures, odd science, and really colorful flowers.
Annihilation is the type of sci-fi that is hard to sell these days for whatever reason (well, the reason being that most people aren’t patient enough to think too hard), but Garland takes a fast-paced storytelling approach that blends science fiction, horror and some action to keep you entertained. Coupled with an amazing and off kilter score by Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury, Annihilation is the kind of film that, when it wants to, can make your hair stand on end.
And yet there are areas that don’t entirely work. The film seems too fast paced at times, especially in the beginning and end. The early scenes between Portman and Isaac feel slightly stilted, as if Garland, working from a novel by Jeff VanderMeer, wants to keep you off balance but doesn’t quite know how to do it while simultaneously drawing you in. It would have been nice to see an additional scene or two to develop the other female characters, too--given what happens, it would have been great to get to know these women a bit more and understand what makes them tick before the Shimmer does its thing. The conclusion, too, is abrupt; while generally satisfying, there is a whiff of “that’s it?” (or perhaps more accurately, “that’s how you’re going to leave it?”) when the credits start rolling.
Given the sudden ending and the fact that several of the big scares and developments were blown in the trailers, Annihilation isn’t quite as layered and complex as expected. And yet, it’s still magnificently directed, boasts a beautiful vision, and offers an intriguing story that feels fresh and at least slightly different.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.