Comments on Annihilation


Photo by Matt McCabe

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Well, that makes Alex Garland two for two then when it comes to directing, doesn’t it? I really like Garland, and while I enjoyed Ex Machina and 28 Days Later, I still maintain that the best thing he’s ever  been involved with, and I know I’m alone in this, is Sunshine. I love Sunshine, third act and all, and I feel like there were echoes of it in Annihilation. Mostly because it starts off as hard sci-fi, and gradually turns into a sort of horror film, though it pulls it off with a little more grace than Sunshine did. I’ve heard people compare this to Stalker, and after having seen Annihilation, I’m not sure if those people have actually seen that film.

The very basic concept is similar, yes, scientists traveling through a strange land with its own logic, but aside from that it couldn’t be more different. Most of the odd things going on in the “Zone” in Stalker are implied or discussed rather than seen, whereas with Annihilation, we see all of the mutations and distortions caused by the “Shimmer” firsthand. It’s arguable which method of world building is more effective, but what’s not arguable is that the two films are so radically different, that there’s no reason to compare them beyond what I already said.

Honestly, it’s closer to a super trippy Cronenberg remake of Predator, with all of the inventive visuals and body horror you could ask for. The imagery on display really is stunning, from the trees of ice on the beach to massive murals made from human remains and plant life. There’s also a hazy rainbow glow during our time spent in the Shimmer, which along with the unnatural passage of time, makes for a dreamlike feel. This is especially apparent during the final 20 minutes or so where the visuals take complete control in a sequence almost reminiscent of the trip through the stargate in 2001, though nowhere near as awe inspiring.

Even though the performances aren’t much of a priority in something like this, the cast is fine all around. Honestly there’s only one big problem I have, and it’s the framing story. This sort of flashbacks thing nearly always comes across as super lame, and Annihilation is no exception. There’s no point to telling us who dies in the very first scene, other than to eliminate any tension there might’ve been right from the get go, and then cutting back to it randomly just to destroy the atmosphere even further. And I don’t know if it was just the framing of these scenes or what, but they always looked cheap, like they could’ve been right out of an episode of Black Mirror or some other tv show, which can’t be said about the rest of the film. I’m not entirely convinced that there’s much to Annihilation beyond the surface, other than a silly ambiguous ending shot, but it’s still one hell of a surface.