Annihilation– 4/5 – Movie Reviews by Ry!

Annihilation – 4/5 – Sci-fi will take you to places beyond the known world.  What makes a good Sci-Fi film is the ability to create realism in the fantastical.  No matter if you’re witness to unique worlds (Star Wars, Star Trek) or even grounded on Earth (Arrival, Blade Runner 2049), the experience of that escape is worth the watch.  Annihilation takes the surreal and blends it within our own world.  From the staunch direction, great acting and believable themes, Annihilation is a Sci-Fi adventure that will leave a strong mark.

Premise: A biologist goes on a dangerous expedition where the laws of nature don’t apply.  As her team enters The Shimmer, everything is on the line as Lena must find the reasons and save the world from destruction.

In the lead role of Lena is Natalie Portman.  Portman does a good job in creating a character that has strong commanding presence in a ‘common sense’ approach on screen.  She does this through subtle interactions, thoughtful approaches and precise emotional contexts.  This pushes beyond any typical archetype, infusing a character that is knowledgeable but cautious of the unknown that lies ahead.  As the film’s story unfolds, that unknown creates reactions that reveal personal flaws through a grounded psyche.  There are layers to her reasons, but the depth is explained in reactionary terms.  We (the audience) grow with Lena as she approaches the truth of what has arrived on Earth.  For the rest of the cast, please refer to the film’s IMDb page.  Overall, the characters that are on the journey with Lena create that ‘team’ aspect found in the Sci-Fi genre.  With some slight background to flesh out common archetypes, there dynamic creates relationships that are honest, pure and believable.  There isn’t much dialogue, so the worth comes in physical and mental struggles between team members as they try to survive and find answers.

This film provides a topical reference of something familiar (DNA) and blends it with the surreal (alien life form).  By combining two contrast elements, the director creates what is known as the ‘thinking’s man’ Sci-Fi film.  What I mean is there’s little explanation for the ‘why, what and how’ things happen, but a reliance of investigation through characterization.  This allows for exposition and thematic details to become staunch in development, creating an overarching evolution of the story to the experience.  In the first act, the film starts with the basic setup of an alien artifact coming to Earth.  From here, we are introduced to Lena as she (through circumstantial plot devices), encounters a secret government team and is tasked to investigate what is called The Shimmer.  In the First Act, the film moves methodically, creating a slow burn for the audience.  You get to see how each aspect of the world and characters matter when it comes to The Shimmer.  This method also allows us to perceive the information through interaction and scenarios as if you are there with Lena and crew.  As the team heads into the alien confines, the mannerism, broaden human dialogue and physical reactions creates a sense of wonder.  This helps infuse the fantastical to our own world, creating a logical understanding of all the oddities that are living within The Shimmer.  The tone is very heavy, paralleling the slow burn of the pace.  As the team encounters colorful/interesting plants and creatures, the ‘unknown’ becomes a smokescreen to the eeriness behind the alien artifact.  As the truth begins to come to the forefront, we are given ‘flash forwards’ at points to produce these truths about The Shimmer.  The exposition creates ‘moments’ that become generalized as talking points.  This fractures some of the human-like approach, juggling the strong characterization with the mediocrity of common Sci-Fi tropes.  The good thing is that the further they go into The Shimmer, it creates unpredictable situations that starts to blend genres.  By adding drama and horror, you grow a sensible attachment to the characters.  This allows for you to react in a humanistic way, knowing that their lives (and the worlds) are at stake.  Once we arrive at the main area, the emotional and physical toll on Lena comes to the forefront.  With the surreal becoming her reality, the confrontation becomes a source of entrapment.  This creates an ambiguous nature of awe, wonder and fear; leading to a climax that breaks what we believe to be true.  Once in the epilogue, you are left in a tangible aftermath.  This will leave you with a thought that some things may be possible in the real world.

The visuals are a great blend of simplicity in the fantastical.  The cinematography is a dynamic of colors, odd creatures and unique designs within our own natural world.  The juxtaposition of imagination and realism creates a place for emotional involvement.  There is a ‘wonder’ of innocence, but also a ‘what if’ effect on how all of this could be real.  The score is typical but effective.  With long heavy strings, resounding bass and randomized electronic tones creates an eerie feeling.  That ‘no escape’ mentality slowly moves along, providing some emotional girth to the overall experience.

Annihilation is a Sci-Fi film with many strong elements, ideas, thoughtful questioning and characters.  Even as the film takes it times, there is enough in the journey to create an enthralling experience.  If you’re a fan of Natalie Portman or like ‘thinking’ Sci-Fi films, this is one for you.  It is worth the full price at the theaters.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *