By Dave B
Annihilation (Paramount Pictures), directed by Alex Garland, entered theaters last week. Based off of the first book in Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy (which I haven’t read). It tells the story of the last expedition to enter The Shimmer, a mysterious barrier surrounding a portion of the southern US.
I have to admit, this movie scared me. Not in the something jumps out at a character and startles you sense (although there is a bit of that in the film). The fear is more related to one’s fundamental sense of self, being constantly assaulted throughout the movie. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but Annihilation is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Honestly, I’m a little concerned that the feelings that this movie brought up won’t fade quickly. Like when you see a painting that makes you deeply uncomfortable and you can’t quite forget the feeling, even when you can no longer recall the painting’s details.
It’s pacing starts out slow and gradually increases leading up to the film’s climax. In other words, the first hour of the two-hour runtime was a bit of a chore to get through at times, while the last 30 minutes are intense and seemingly over in the blink of an eye.
Visually, Annihilation is stunning. One of the most beautiful (and disgusting) films that I’ve ever seen. The score is…possibly brilliant. I didn’t really notice it much until the movie became more intense. It was subtly manipulating my feelings until near Annihilation’s end. At that point, the contrast between a particularly gorgeous visual and a particularly discordant song, made me feel as if my skull was going to crack open and allow my brains to leak onto the theater’s floor. Not a very pleasant feeling.
The film’s acting was alright and character development was minimal, but I want to be clear: this movie is not about characters. It’s about provoking emotional reactions. First, by using imagery and sound to confuse your senses just enough to make you uncomfortable. Then, by threatening your fundamental sense individuality and biological integrity. And lastly, by using the above elements to leave you with a sense of dislocation, like being untethered from reality.
I imagine that there will be a wide variety of opinion about Annihilation. Some will say it’s a masterpiece that moved them deeply and others will call it nonsensical garbage that had no impact on them at all. This review won’t be of any use in resolving that debate. Frankly, the movie had me literally staggering out of the theater after it ended, so I wasn’t really in any condition to definitively say that the movie was great or not. I doubt I’ll ever be able to say one way or the other with any certainty. It’s not the type of movie that easily falls into a bucket of “good” or “bad”. I AM certain that it’s not something that I would watch again. I “liked” it in the sense that I thought it was very well made and accomplished its goals, but I would only recommend it to someone who is actively looking to question the foundations of their reality. 7.5/10