A film that doesn’t quite meet the same level of others in the genre (Interstellar or Arrival), Annihilation is a firm addition to the sci-fi intellectual genre and worth setting aside the time to watch. It’s a shame that the studio didn’t have faith in it on the big screen and released the international rights to Netflix. Articles leading up to the release touted that it was too intellectual for general audiences and was part of the reason that the studio decided not to release it worldwide. I find this to be a big misfortune as this is a film that should be experienced on the big screen. Some of the visuals and audio are going to be lost on the small screen.
One impressive moment that is best experienced in a theater or at least with a powerful sound system occurs at the end of the film when Portman is in an incredibly tense and stressful situation. The character Lena is going through an incredibly uncomfortable moment and the sound in the theater gets so loud that I found myself wanting to plug my ears. In the moment I was annoyed but I began to realize that I was experiencing a feeling similar to the character and it was a truly immersive experience. This isn’t something I have seen in many films and I found it to be truly artistic and immersive.
Natalie Portman and her supporting cast all do a fantastic job in their respective roles. One of the characters Anya, as played by Gina Rodriguez, drove me crazy but in an entertaining way. Her hot headed nature and immaturity were fabulous as can be attributed to great writing and Rodriguez’s stellar portrayal. Anya is easily the most emotional of the group and brings some drama that places a fun dynamic on the team. Her character is developed in a way that shows that people are not who they seem at first glance and that stressful situations can transform the best of us into different people.
Tessa Thompson plays Josie who is vastly different from Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok. As a major nerd I couldn’t help but wish they would make some kind of reference to Thor since they are both play supporting characters in his trilogy but it didn’t happen unsurprisingly. I personally haven’t seen a ton of Tessa Thompson but this film made me want to watch more of her performances. She was soft and gentle as opposed to Anya. I wish we had seen more from her as her role was one of the smaller of the main cast.
Tuva Novotny (Cass Shepard) and Jennifer Jason Leigh (Dr Ventress) were also very interesting characters. Shepard and Lena were the most well adjusted characters whereas Ventress seemed to be one of the most crazy despite the fact that she is a psychiatrist. Her lack of emotion was expertly performed by Leigh but made me feel that she was the most likely to be a serial killer. It was creepy how composed she was even in the most tense situations.
The film sends the team into “The Shimmer”, a place where only one person has ever come back from but was unable to give them any information on it. As the Shimmer continues to grow, Ventress compiles a team to enter and gather information from “The Lighthouse” where the shimmer started. Ventress and her team of scientists enter this new world where everything is genetically mutating and the colors and art are exquisite. There were instances where the mutations were so beautiful that I wanted to be there myself and then there were times where the images were so gruesome that I thought I may never watch the film again. It was a film that did a fantastic job of showing the beauty and terror of this new place. I found myself terrified or horrified with the characters more than once in the film.
Upon leaving the theater I was firmly disappointed in the ending and I still am. While the ending was abrupt and didn’t answer enough questions, the rest of the film was amazing. I didn’t need every question answered but the ending just didn’t make sense to me. I would love to discuss with you if you have seen it but don’t want to add spoilers here as this is a film better enjoyed so that you can learn what is going on yourself. In the days after watching the film I find myself wanting to watch it again and dissect it which I think is a staple of success in this genre. Annihilation is a solid Sci-Fi psychological thriller that should be experienced in theaters by more people.
4 out of 5 Couch Cushions!!!