Not quite the follow-up we were hoping for
Annihilation (2018): A biologist signs up for a dangerous, secret expedition where the laws of nature don't apply.
Wow. I don't even know where to start with this film. In this case, I think that's a good thing. Annihilation is a bold film. Director/writer Alex Garland has crafted an ambitious sci-fi film that embodies its genre to the fullest extent. I will warn you: if you're anything short of a die-hard science fiction fan, you will likely not enjoy this. It's a deep watch in every sense of the phrase. It's ambiguous and very science-y, (for lack of a better word) which a lot of people will enjoy, including me. I was completely engrossed, and there's no doubt the execution of this complex premise is fantastic, even though the film can come off as self-aware. Alex Garland knows how to craft n engrossing sci-fi film, and he knows it. For better or for worse. One thing's for sure, though: can we get more films like this, please?
There are some shortcomings here for sure. Alex Garland knows how to make a good genre film, but his “character development” writing is not as strong. In fact, it's pretty disappointing. Natalie Portman plays her character marvellously, but there are certain aspects of her origin story that make very little sense, and certainly aren't relevant to the overall story. In Garland's previous film, Ex Machina, the viewer knows very little about the characters involved. This is a strength of that film: it gets its characters right into the crux of the premise with very little setup, which allows Garland to focus on the AI instead. In Annihilation, though, we spend a good amount of time developing characters (Portman most of all) before they begin the primary mission, and during this first act the film does leave something to be desired. And once they do get into the primary mission, the film has a tendency to come off as pretentious and self-aware. There's still a lot to like here, but I think a lot of people will be turned off by its indulgent storytelling style.
That said, I'm not really one of them. I had a blast and was totally engrossed by the concept of this film. It is absolutely spectacular to look at too, featuring beautiful cinematography and spectacular production design, with a good score and sound design to boot. While this will be a decisive film, there's no doubt there will be a consensus with how it looks. Once the main characters finally enter The Shimmer, that is. Also, I really enjoyed the dynamics between the characters once they did enter The Shimmer, and how it affected them individually was really interesting to me. However, it all leads up to this climatic third act that will be really decisive depending on which side of the fence you fall on. Initially, I really enjoyed it, but the more I've thought about it, the more I'm “on the fence” versus anything else. I think there's a way to better execute the finale, but regardless, it's definitely resonated with me more so than most big budget sci-fi films out there. (Looking at you, superhero movies. How about that totally unnecessary shot, eh Oscar?) The finale here worked for me until the final shot, which adopted the “gotta leave this on an unnecessary (and unexplainable) cliffhanger” kind of ending ripped straight out of Inception. But I had enough fun to look past this. End of the day, this is a good film that is quite thought-provoking (for better and worse) that did have a real shot at greatness. Sadly, though, it is held back by a decisive third act, disappointing character development, and an overarching self-indulgent style. See it if you're a fan of sci-fi, but everyone else? Stay away.
The Critique: While boldly original, Annihilation's overall pretentious and self-absorbed manner in which it tells its engrossing story holds it back from the greatness it could (and should) have achieved.
The Recommendaiton: For hardcore sci-fi fans only. Not much else to like here for everyone else.
Rewatchability: Moderately High
The Verdict: 7/10 Good.
"Like" Enter the Movies on Facebook for the latest and greatest on all things movies! OR ELSE FACE THE CONSEQUENCES OF A KILLER RABBIT. Sorry about this one, guys. Not my decision. He volunteered. And is just absolute dynamite!