Annihilation (2018) – Film Review
Annihilation is a high profile film that never quite made it to the big screen in the UK, instead this Natalie Portman starring science fiction story is available on the Netflix platform.
Based loosely on s book by Jeff VanderMeer Annihilation is the story of a team of five women who are sent into a mysterious area which has been cut off from civilisation following the landing of a meteorite near a lighthouse at the centre of a swampy wildlife refuse in Florida which begins to mutate the surrounding flora and fauna.
A strange zone – which has been dubbed “The Shimmer” by a shady government organisation which is investigating it – is slowly expanding and various missions have been sent in to explore – none have returned.
Ultimately the world could be in danger but the threat is contained in a quiet backwater for the moment while they try to figure out what it is.
The story leans towards a HP Lovecraft style horror and the main cast – a mix of ethnicities and all women – make some fascinating and also gruesome discoveries as they delve deeper into the shimmer.
The shimmer itself is eerie, colourful, and packed with strange mutating life which is both beautiful and in some cases scary and horrifying.
Annihilation is intelligent science fiction
Annihilation would have been a very respectable 1970s style thoughtful science fiction film back in the day, but in the modern cinema going era where flashy effects driven super hero films dominate its easy to see where lower budget efforts could lose out.
What’s notable about this film is that the lead characters are a diverse group of women and the film makes this seem like a normal thing – everyone is professional, there’s no reliance on men at all, and the plot makes no mention of the fact that the main characters are diverse women.
Alex Garland directs his own screenplay adaptation of the book very well, having pared VanderMeer’s novel down to a very workable two hour science fiction film even though there are few real surprises for genre fans.
Fans of the book may get a bit sniffy about some of the changes made, but I felt the film was very intelligent with a talented cast that had a thoughtful conclusion.
On the other hand, Garland’s rewrite of the book has made the film a very accessible watch for non genre fans and if you liked Arrival (2017) then this film is worth watching too if you have access to Netflix.
Netflix, along with other streaming services such as Amazon and Apple, are becoming potential destinations where risky films get a release where studios won’t spend the money on a full cinema distribution deal.
For films like Annihilation, perhaps online streaming platforms may give a second chance to cinema releases which might otherwise get lost amongst the increasingly polarised modern cinema market.
In particular, where lower budgets – even filming on iPhones – could get films made that would otherwise not have a chance, perhaps we’re looking at a possible future for smaller films.
Annihilation (15; strong language, gore, sex; 115m minutes)
Director(s): Alex Garland
Cast Includes: Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, Oscar Isaac
Summary: A group of military scientists enter “The Shimmer”, a mysterious quarantined zone full of mutating landscapes and creatures.
Rating: **** (Intelligent and efficient if slightly predictable science fiction)