Annihilation Review

Praise Eteng '18

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There are movies that you watch, enjoy, and forget about almost immediately after. There are movies you watch that make you want to watch another movie to rid your mind of the awful experience. Then there are movies you watch that’ll have a lasting effect on you long after it’s over. It’ll have you lying awake replaying scenes in your head trying to figure out what it all means. Annihilation is that type of movie. Directed by Alex Garland and starring Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Oscar Isaac, and Tessa Thompson, it is about a group of specialists who enter an area called “The Shimmer” to investigate the phenomenon and figure out why it is growing at such an alarming rate. Annihilation was my most anticipated film of the year. I am a big fan of sci-fi movies and I have grown to be very interested in Alex Garland. He wrote the script for Dredd, an action film in 2012 that is extremely well done and is very underrated. He also wrote and directed Ex Machina in 2014, a movie that is also pretty good, especially as a director’s first film. So when I heard he was making another sci-fi movie I was very excited and luckily I was not disappointed.

This is my favorite film of the year so far. I know that doesn’t mean much right now because it’s only February, but I bet that at the end of the year I’ll still feel the same way. The movie is intense. Even though I was reclined in my seat, some scenes were full of so much tension that I found myself covering my eyes because I couldn’t handle it. There are only 3 “action scenes” throughout the 2 hours of the movie, but the dialogue and the score made the rest of the movie engaging. The camerawork is excellent, the shimmer looks lovely at times with beautiful roses and majestic mutated deer, but it can also be terrifying as well with nasty fungi and bears with missing faces that mimic the screams of the prey that they kill. I personally like the story, but it certainly isn’t for everyone, especially in the last act. Some might find it confusing and others simply might think it’s incredibly dumb, which is totally understandable because this is an open-ended movie. There are questions that are asked and themes that are explored but they aren’t explicitly answered in the movie and it’s up to you to answer them and make sense of it yourself. I love that about this film because it can lead to discussion and discourse among friends and colleagues for days to come.

Like with almost any movie there are some problems I had with it. There is a subplot that is revisited throughout the film that I feel like it could’ve been executed better. It was very slow and boring. The subplot is brief however so I don’t mind it too much but I found myself waiting for those scenes to finish whenever they were on. Another issue is that the special effects are inconsistent. Sometimes it looks obviously fake and almost laughable and other times it looks great. Another issue I had was with the pacing. Just like Garland’s other movies this film has a slow start which is understandable because they are setting up the premise and the characters, but sometimes the movie will leave the story as it’s picking up and getting more exciting to revisit a subplot and it can kill the momentum. Luckily it doesn’t happen when the story really takes off. The last issue I have is really an issue that seems to happen with a lot of sci-fi movies and that is the lack of emotion in most of the characters. Nearly all of them act like robots, lacking any humanity in the movie. I understand that they’re trying to remain calm, cool, and collected and the situation that they’re in doesn’t really give them the luxury of acting like normal human beings. However, even in scenes where characters are just making small talk everyone acts so blankly and stoic, making it really hard to form any attachment to them. That is probably my biggest gripe with the film. It might seem that I have more negatives than positives to say but that’s only because I don’t want to spoil the film for the eight of you who read this. It is a fantastic movie and a great experience that warrants multiple viewings. I’m still trying to understand it and process it myself and when I’m not dead broke I will go see it again. It doesn’t mean much but Annihilation gets a glowing recommendation from me and if I had to give it a rating I’d say it’s a 7/10, it’s a hard movie to grade because it was such a great experience but it did have some problems so I don’t know if a number rating is a fair. Whatever, Annihilation is a great movie. Go see it.

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