Confusing would be the word to describe Annihilation. Oh, and disappointing.
Directed by Alex Garland (Ex Machina), Annihilation centers around a grieving wife, Lena (Natalie Portman), who has lost her husband in a government mission to the mysterious Area X or “the Shimmer.” No surprise, Lena enters the Shimmer and finds it quite unique.
The plot seems promising and the trailer sets the expectation that Annihilation will be fantastic. But sadly, it fell short.
That’s not to say the film was bad. In fact, it fools you into thinking it’s amazing. With its slow, suspenseful score reminiscent of Arrival and with its stunning — almost dreamlike — visual effects, Annihilation proves to be more eye candy than anything else.
The film tries to tackle the fundamental questions of human existence. Think of Arrival and The Hunger Games with a sprinkle of perhaps an Ex Machina-esque bleakness (and maybe some Jurassic Park?). It’s not a bad combination; it’s just poorly developed.
Annihilation is classified as a science fiction horror, but, except for some gore and explicit scenes, the “horror” parts aren’t worth the screen time. In fact, the score builds more suspense.
The acting is also subpar. Natalie Portman as Lena is, for lack of a better word, weak, in both body and acting. She plays the stereotypical broken character with a strong heart who sets out to do what’s right. Oh, and she’s also ex-Army for twice the rebel charm.
Against all odds she leaves the Shimmer relatively unscathed. She has a mind-blowing revelation that could lead a new era in science. But the best part is that she doesn’t remember anything.
In fact, these “aha” moments are rather laughable, especially near the end. It’s as if Garland decided to save the coolest stuff for last. Perhaps I really didn’t get it — any of it. But I’m convinced the entire essence of the Shimmer and therefore, the whole movie, should have been explained a lot more.
It’s films like Annihilation that make me sad. They perform beautifully in the first half, then slowly disappear until all that’s left are CGI and a Natalie Portman that’s as confused as the audience. So, if you really want to watch the movie, watch the trailer. It’s great.