posted 26 Mar 2018, 13:31 by Paul Woodward

Genre: Sci-Fi / Mystery / Drama

Stars: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez, Oscar Issac, Tuva Novotny

Director: Alex Garland

Certificate: 15

Run Time: 1hr 55mins

Year: 2018

When I’m aware of a film been based on a book or real event I have a bad habit of researching the event/book prior to watching the film. Although I haven’t read the book of the same name, from the information I gathered I can say that there are a LOT of differences and I think there is a little tweaking and reimaging along the way by writer/director Alex Garland. Obviously not everything that works on the page translates well to the screen, but I do feel there are lot of changes here – this may upset fans of the book, it may not, but it’s definitely not a faithful adaptation. So much so that it would be impossible to continue the book trilogy cinematically with follow up films.

It is a really weird and unsettling film from the beginning right through to the closing credits. I thought it was a film trying to be really clever and cerebral when it didn’t really need to be. Given the praise Garland received for ‘Ex Machina’ I get the impression he is trying to emulate several aspects of that film, the disturbing and unsettling tone and the art house style of directing and I feel it maybe didn’t suit the plot of this film.

It was entertaining enough, it didn’t drag or bore me, but it is a slow burn film and is certainly not a popcorn movie, this is definitely one for a more mature audience. The basic plot of the film is a meteor has crash landed on earth smack bang into a Lighthouse and a ‘shimmering’ barrier has slowly expanded from that central point of the crash and is called Area X. A Research company who you assume is connected to the US government called ‘Southern Reach’ send teams into the shimmering to find out what’s going on because everything within Area X is a mystery. Once inside the ever expanding shimmering all communication is lost and no one returns. The wife of one of the last team’s members, Lena (Portman), after the sudden reappearance of her husband who has no memories of what’s happened and quickly falls into a coma is part of the next team to enter – a five-woman team of scientists. What happens next is a basically a road trip to the lighthouse.

It’s very mysterious and no real answers are given to what the hell is going on and the mysterious ‘evolution’ and ‘mutations’ are never explained even the ending leaves the why’s and what for’s totally down to the interpretation of the viewer. It’s not a satisfying movie as it presents a lot of questions but effectively answers none and the ending in the Lighthouse is bizarre and I think art and presentation win out against storytelling.

I love Natalie Portman and she does really well with a very bizarre story but this film is more about visuals and mystery than meaty character portrayals. Jennifer Jason Leigh is just plain moody and her character comes across very unlikeable, not because she’s a bitch but because Leigh comes across as bored and apathetic throughout and seems uninterested in what is going on around her so you don’t care about her. The other actresses have more fleshed out characters with moments that allow them to endear themselves to the viewer, Gina Rodriguez who plays a cocky, bombastic soldier who turns a little nut’s in a much-used sci-fi plot trope and scene. Tessa Thompson plays a shy unassuming character with personal troubles, which are never talked about but allow you to feel sympathy for her fate. It’s a totally different role from Thompson’s turn as ‘Valkyrie’ in ‘Thor: Ragnarok’.

Annihilation is not a film that is going to stick in people’s memories and it doesn’t have mass appeal. But that doesn’t make it a bad film, it’s just not for everyone, but even those who appreciate more cerebral and thought provoking films will still be left thinking what the hell was that as the credits roll!