Having been planning to write reviews, Annihilation was in fact one of my top choices. I failed to get much further than hashing out what I wanted to review, until now.
I enjoyed reading Steemit-earn1's review (Thank you), their background knowledge of the book is an asset. I have not read the book by by Jeff VanderMeer (I intend to) and I feel that my review would have a hard focus in different aspects of the movie than my fellow Steemian.
Thank you Steemit-earn1 for the review and inspiration. Also, I was unfamilar with @realityhubs so thank you for bringing this front-end into view.
Now, for the movie review.
I knew absolutely nothing about this movie prior to watching it- neither the genre, cast, etc. A friend told me that it was a good movie and I was experiencing one of those, "I ran out of things to watch" moments. Knowing that this friend liked similar films as myself, I jumped right in.
Immediately, I was on a journey of one confusion after another, but it was a flavour of punch-drunk that was enticing. I like twisted, perplexing story-lines that seem to have a very deep underbelly of information and philosophy and that was exactly what the first 20ish minutes of Annihilation plates. You begin never really knowing who these people are; the long lost husband that all thought was dead had resurfaced with curious social behaviours, lack of knowledge or memory, and unusual reactions to standard everyday substances; Lena, played by Natalie Portman, the female lead thought to be widowed and is presented in a teeter-totter of time, one moment in a cell being aggressively questioned about her time on assignment and then back to her bewildered husband.
Man confused. Wife confused. Man gets sick. Wife goes on the same assignment that husband was on so that she can figure out why he is sick. The "situation" is a "Shimmer" as they call a terribly CGI'd shimmery veil of an environmental abnormality that just magically showed up. No one sent into the shimmer has come out except for confused sick husband. A team of 5 female scientists venture in to the danger zone; a psychologist (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a biologist (Natalie Portman), a physicist (Tessa Thompson), an anthropologist (Tuva Novotny), and a paramedic (Gina Rodriguez).
We are taken on a rapidly unfolding adventure into a world of wondrous images that first seem beautiful and- well- “shimmery”. Animal “echoes” (twins) that seem to not only look the same but move and be one divided entity, a plethora of diverse flowers all growing from the same vine, everything looks to be hinting towards an “Avatar” like paradise. With beautiful deviancy comes the not so beautiful. We are startled by a two headed creature and then violently shocked by another unusual creature.
The women decide to bunker down in what they feel should be a safe place as it had been where previous research teams had stayed to create a safe zone. It is here that we are shown what appears to be warning videos from the previous team; bodily growths that are unnatural to normal lifecycle, deformation of human and plant structures. There were a few “omg pause that so that I can look closer, moments” here. And- then plenty more.
With the help of Tessa Thompson’s character, Josie, we learn that the Shimmer is a prism that refracts DNA of plants, animals and humans, as well as light. Inside of the beautiful invasion, all things- including radio signals, animal, human and plant cells become merged and reorganized into gorgeous and horrifying things. The line between living things no longer exists- all cells are able and do exist in one. Animal is plant is human.
It seems as though the more an individual gives in to the power of the prism, they open themselves up to rapidly changing and becoming a part of it.
I found the scene sequences to be quite shifty, which I liked. One moment we are fed a fairly calm or boring'ish scene and no warning (likely due to avoidance of too much tell-tale music) adjoining with action filled or horror film style scenes. Though many images and sounds were definitely suited for the horror genre, it never completely felt like the producer, Alex Garland, submerged to the dark side consistently. Personally, I was a bit agitated about this seeing that the visual and audio were indescribably remarkable. Then again, the movie is marketed as Sci-Fi Horror- not Horror. I was able to allow my soft-hearted 12 year old Daughter to watch the movie with me after my first watch (with avoidance of one known scene).
Oh, yes- I have watched Annihilation four (4) times now.
This spice was completely left out of the recipe. Having watched these actors in other films, I am aware that most of them aren't as bad as this movie showcased which leaves only writing and production to be accountable for. With very little to work with, the performers did the best that they could and it appeared that everyone, or nearly everyone had at least a moment or two where you could see what they were capable of but the final content wasn't there to work with. Jennifer Jason Leigh, the Psychologist, might very well have done some of her worse acting yet. After her performance in "The Jacket" I had been a big fan of her for years. Perhaps it was her subdued approach, but after seeing Jennifer Jason Leigh in many films since, I realize that her subdued approach is bad or repetitive acting. I truly believe that she was the weakest link and had the role of the Psychiatrist been given to someone else, the entire movie would have been much better.
Scene from the film, Annihilation by Alex Garland
Audio and Visual
Oh my effin hell- more please!!! The trees that were made of icicles, the beautiful mirror dance that Lena does with other Lena, the creepy voice in the thing at the time in the place- I’m still having nightmares (I’m not, but I’m shocked that I’m not) and that amazing meditative sound in the ending scenes.
---- Alex Garland somehow merged audio with colours and pulses that had some kind of living life human’ish nature yet radio wave thing going on. Sound became a creature with intent and drive. The audio is so inhuman yet so human- in a real life situation very few persons would be able to withstand the true hypnotic power of the images and sounds of this creature. I don’t know if the audio/visual is intended to be a creature, I assume so given the merging of everything inside of the Shimmer, but if that was not the intent it is what I got.
The acting might be horrible and lacking character development but I don’t think that this is the kind of movie that should have too much character development- it would conflict with the concept of the prism. Nothing appears more than anything else and humans are treated more like a disease (to no surprise) rather than a dominate figure. The animals that we do see in the film are in fact some of the stronger and longer lived on earth than most, which would make sense in a circumstance where everything is being merged into something bigger, better, stronger, prettier, and healthier.
What is amazing and most frightening about Annihilation is that the twisted logic behind the story; It doesn’t seem unlikely to happen nor does it necessarily seem wrong when considered from an unbiased natural evolutionary point.
I’ll be a tree with flowers please.