Sunday, March 11, 2018

Annihilation: Film Review

Alex Garland continues to be one to the more interesting directors out there.  The fact that he seems to focus on the sci-fi genre makes it all the better for me.  While only his third directing position after Dredd, and Ex Machina, his screenplays for 28 Days Later, Sunshine, Never Let Me Go, and The Beach were also worthy mentions to his resume.

Annihilation is likely the most difficult of these to get through.  At points quiet and deliberately paced, it won't find interest among Snapchat aficionados.  This was recognized by Paramount and producer David Ellison who both wanted to change significant portions of the film in order to market it better to gain more commercial success.  Luckily Garland got his way and the film remained unaltered.  This has doomed the film to financial losses however as it appears to be headed for replacement in theaters in short order.  In fact, in markets other than the US, the film is headed straight for Netflix.

So what are most modern viewers missing?  A creepy, bloody, sometimes violent two hours of relatively unexplained weirdness.  Diverging heavily from the Jeff VanderMeer's trilogy, the film contains a complete beginning, middle and end and leaves nothing hanging for sequels.  In fact, beyond just a very basic scaffolding, the film contains little plot or events that are recognizable to the reader.  Ignore any mention of white-washing in the film...I've read the novels and attributing Asian or any other racial identities to the characters is virtually nonexistent and the fact that Garland used Portman as the lead shouldn't bother anyone except the SJW class of dimwits.

In the end our own film experiences are often derived from the histories we bring with ourselves to the theater.  For me, it boils down to a parable about a couple's attempt at recovery from infidelity seen through the prism of a sci-fi quest to discern the reasons behind an alien "shimmer" that spreads from a single point and mutates all it touches.  What comes out the other side are a husband and a wife completely different, down to their very genetic material than what they were before--the film seeming to say that through the prism of infidelity, all that you thought, were and did in the past is to meet a state of tabula rasa in order to function on the other side.

Along the way people are turned to plants, men are cut open and seen to contain giant worms on their insides, albino alligator-shark hybrids hunt the all female scientific team, a bear-something creature howls in a human voice before tearing apart one team member who has gone insane, and a near mirror finish alien-humanoid performs a mimicry dance in imitating Portman's every gesture.

I have a few quibbles...Like if the military was sending in a team to explore this anomaly, could they possibly have equipped this team worse?  No helmets?  No body armor?  And their overall gear looks more like they are out for a girl scout camping trip than a serious expedition.  Additionally...there isn't a single one of the female characters who looks comfortable with a gun...they all look like their skin might be allergic to the feel of metal on their skin and are stiff in their mannerisms in holding the weapons...someone needs some better training to at least LOOK like they know what they are doing...

I enjoyed it far better than the books from which the film came from as it does contain a resolution of its original questions and Garland's artistic voice is stronger and clearer than VanderMeer's who created an thrilling but ultimately empty world.  It took Garland to fill it with a reason to be.

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