Film Review: Annihilation (2018)

‘A beautiful and mind-boggling analogy for personal self-destruction’

Annihilation, 2018

Directed by: Alex Garland

Starring: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny, Oscar Isaac

 

A beautiful and mind-boggling analogy for personal self-destruction through a gene-altering world known as Area X, an area covered by a colourful cloud expanding from the original source which was a lighthouse. In the three years since it initially landed on the lighthouse, several teams of soldiers have gone inside to explore but no soldier has returned and the area is expanding, forcing Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to take a troup of female-only scientist, including our protagonist, Lena (Natalie Portman, Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith), to explore in a less-hostile attempt.

The personal self-destruction analogy is told through the women who volunteer to go inside Area X, with all the of them running away from something and almost happily accepting the death they are likely to suffer. It’s a nicely told story, and the wounds that the women carry are told throughout quite nicely and add an extra dimension to most of the characters. It’s also expertly acted, heralded by a fantastic Natalie Portman, who plays the wounded wife, the gene-altered woman and the scientist roles beautifully together (I’m really annoyed that the only films featuring Natalie Portman I’ve reviewed so far have been the Prequel Star Wars story and Mars Attacks).

Annihilation, 2

The gene-manipulation brought on by Area X is also well told, from small flowers who shouldn’t be growing together to scary-looking creatures whose genes have been manipulated to combine their features with those from other animals (a crocodile/alligator combined with shark teeth, for example) and they all look rather scary. However, while the visuals on the screen were fantastic for the most part, there were many occasions where it was quite difficult to see what was happening because most of the action took place at night or in rather dark areas. That was the main grip I had with the film, because when I need to squint or lean forward for a better angle to see some of the actions on-screen it doesn’t scream top quality.

We can all relate to the problems the women suffer from, and it also adds a devil-may-care attitude to their experience in Area X; and Dr. Ventress’ determination against all odds to make it to the lighthouse, told through her sadness at having studied the phenomenon for over three years with no answers. I also loved the ambiguity of the ending (Lena is seen at the start of the film retelling her version of events inside Area X); while it’s probably the happy ending you want it to be, there’s just an air of confusion that beautifully rests with it. Also, the final scene of Lena inside the lighthouse is immense, crazy and beautiful.

 

Personal: * * *     Acting: * * * *     Writing: * * * *     Presentation: * * * *

Overall Rating: * * * ¾

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