A biologist joins a military expedition into a region of the world where
the laws of nature have been corrupted by an otherworldly force.
Written and Directed by Alex Garland
Starring Natalie Portman, Oscar Isaac, Jennifer Jason Leigh,
Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez, Tuva Novotny, Benedict Wong
Based on the novel by Jeff VanderMeer
Alex Garland has developed some amazing films in such a short amount of time, from 28 Days Later to Dredd to Ex Machina. I assumed this film would fall under the same thought-provoking sci-fi umbrella, and while it certainly does at times, I was remarkably disappointed by the finished product. Annihilation is a dull slog through the marital troubles of a biologist who was born without a personality. Despite a stellar cast, this film never really accomplishes anything it sets out to do. It wants to be drama, sci-fi, and horror, but doesn't tread deeply enough into any genre. The bottom line is this film is easily not worth the price of a movie ticket.
Natalie Portman portrays Lena, a troubled biologist mourning her husband who was K.I.A. in a black ops mission. When he suddenly turns up alive and the two of them are abducted by government operatives, she learns that a rift of some kind has opened up in an undisclosed area, and it is growing. Inside the rift, the laws of nature have run amok and this shadow organization has been tasked with containment. Lena signs up for the expedition, which is where things get really weird and really boring. The area known as the Shimmer boasts some stunning visuals and a few genuinely terrifying scenes. But the artsy approach that Garland takes with the film damages it beyond repair. The third act (SPOILERS!) woefully introduces aliens as the cause of the Shimmer, and right when we think we're gonna get the answers we want, the film is over and another twist has been introduced. Ultimately, it's poor storytelling.
I didn't know what to expect with Annihilation, and yet I was still let down. I feel like Natalie Portman has been phoning it in for a while, and she doesn't do a great job of holding the disinterested cast together. The film brings up too many questions to answer, so it doesn't answer any, which is just infuriating. Sacrificing substance for style never works, and it just ends up creating a lousy film that will get swept under the rug once audiences realize it's a waste of time.