Writer and director Alex Garland answers this question in his mind-bending and thought-provoking film.
“Annihilation” follows a group of scientists who are sent to explore a mysterious extraterrestrial field known as “The Shimmer.” Once inside, the team attempts to learn more about what is causing the strange event.
Science fiction movies rarely explore concepts as thought provoking as “Annihilation” does. Alex Garland directs this film with marvelous beauty, which calls back to films like Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
If you pay attention early on in the film, you will notice excellent examples of foreshadowing. Visual hints such as a glass of water and a sliding door indicate certain events in the film. The cinematography by Rob Hardy paints a beautiful picture with several still shots that seem like a work of art.
The set design and CGI effects used in this film are breath taking. While “The Shimmer” is depicted somewhat ominously, there are moments where the beauty of the strange place is exhibited. The location in this film is meticulously well constructed and a truly unforgettable experience.
Natalie Portman plays a biologist and former soldier named Lana. There has been some controversy surrounding Portman’s casting. Many have deemed it whitewashing due to Lana’s character being an Asian American in the novel the film is based on.
In the novel however, no character is mentioned by name. It isn’t until the sequel that Lana’s race is addressed. Alex Garland claimed that he hadn’t read the sequel when he began work on the film. Whether or not Natalie Portman was the right casting choice, she gives a deeply personal and emotionally realistic performance.
The supporting cast including Jennifer Jason Leigh and Oscar Isaac give quiet and mesmerizing performances. Unfortunately, three out of the five members of the team come off as generic. The stories of these three characters are explained mainly through expositional dialogue rather than personal moments.
However, what makes “Annihilation” an unforgettable experience is not the characters. It is the world that is explored and the questions about evolution and new meaning. While many may find the ending of this film confusing, it chooses not to follow the framework of typical science fiction action films.
The musical score by Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury is a highly unconventional score for a science fiction film. The score utilizes acoustic guitar for the film’s quiet moments. But when the action sequences arrive, the music becomes tense and epic in scale.
Like Garland’s previous film “Ex Machina,” “Annihilation” does not follow the conventional structure for a science fiction film. While the supporting characters in the film are not very memorable, this is a film driven by its challenging questions and direction.
The film has smooth direction, artistically beautiful cinematography, a unique musical score, excellent main performances, and a nuanced ending for a science fiction film. “Annihilation” is a stunningly well constructed film that will go down in history as one of the most unique science fiction films of the year.
Movie rating: 8.5/10
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