You ever go to a party and you think you are pretty drunk? Like you drank a dozen drinks and think “Yikes, I hope I am not embarrassing myself.” Only while you’re at that party, someone one-ups your drunkenness and is 50 shades more of silly sloppy and befuddled than you. Then you suddenly feel sober as a bird because of the sheer shock and awe of seeing someone else THAT drunk wakes you up? Ever experience that? Yeah, well that’s what the movie Annihilation is like. Just when you think things are wildly trippy and fucked up, the movie one-ups itself and goes beyond strange and you say to yourself, “Oh shit, the director [Alex Garland] must be on acid.” I found myself mouth agape at points of this flick just thinking “I thought this movie was whacked but wow somehow it got crazier.” Just watch the trailer and trust me, this is the tip of the iceberg for what you will witness.
Annihilation was released to theaters back in February and just was released on DVD and Digital this past week. Now this movie appealed to me for many reasons. I absolutely LOVED Ex Machina. If you haven’t seen the 2014 sci-fi thriller Ex Machina, rent it immediately. I own it and watch it every couple months because it’s such a well done movie for the genre. I became an immediate fan of director Alex Garland’s work. Granted, Ex Machina is not nearly as cosmically freaky as Annihilation. The other things this movie had: Natalie Portman, Oscar Isaac, and Tessa Thompson. It’s just a fantastic cast. Oscar Isaac also starred in Garland’s Ex Machina and he is just a stellar master of his craft. I am also a big sci-fi guy and this movie had nuances of other movies in it: There was a little of Ex Machina in knowing something bigger, more sinister would result from the discovery, some pieces of Alien (oh, you will see what I mean between the video recovered of Oscar Isaac’s character Kane and his corps making some horrifying discoveries and a gruesome one at that), almost a glimmer of Final Fantasy and Stranger Things (The Shimmer has the feel of an Upside Down).
Warning: Spoilers and stuff. I mean it’s on DVD so grow up.
Portman’s Lena is married to Isaac’s Kane and has believed for a year he was killed in action during a military operation. Turns out, SURPRISE, he wasn’t but he was on a mysterious mission he won’t talk about and well things aren’t right. This discovery gets Lena pulled into an Area 51 type world where scientists and military have been working on cracking the shroud of unknown in the expanding environment known as The Shimmer. And guess who gets to walk right into the bright, shiny, glimmering unknown? You guessed it: Lena…and a team of female recruits with various backgrounds in medical, military, scientific and rescue. They also all have some pretty painful emotional scars from pasts they are hiding (for the most part) from one another. One could argue this whole movie is a metaphor for purgatory. There’s also a lot to be said about evolution especially with gender, time, survival instincts, mental toughness, guilt and retribution. There’s a lot of mingling themes you can identify as this group of women battle through the frighteningly and rapidly changing atmosphere they find themselves in from giant albino crocodiles to some sort of death skull grizzly bear that mimics the screams of its victims (yeah wow WTF) to whatever the FUCK Jennifer Jason Leigh turns into at the end (sorry spoiler).
A couple scenes had my wife waking up from her deep sleep on the couch saying “WHAT’S HAPPENING? WHAT IS THAT? WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU WATCHING?” So you know it’s messed up and also I watched this while my wife was asleep, don’t all husbands do this? Believe me there’s a good chance your wife doesn’t want to watch this. Not just visually but the sound effects and music can be disturbing at times. We fear the unknown and that’s a lot of what this movie covers. It fits the sci-fi thriller genre slightly bordering into horror. You know it’s got some crazy scenes when the wife reacts like that. The best part is the ending. It makes you wonder about Lena and Kane. It also makes you want to watch it again. There’s another nuance of Alien here actually almost Prometheus-like with knowing Lena and Kane could possibly now be evolved into something terrifying. But that’s the beauty of Alex Garland’s movies, he leaves a lot to ponder and not so much to desire. His movies are satisfying to the imagination but also exercises your imagination to think past the boundaries of the beginning and end of the film(s).
I would give Annihilation a solid B. As a movie, it certainly isn’t for everyone. But for sci-fi thriller fans and people who appreciate a new take on a movie (although based on a book) it knocks it out of the park.