I only heard about "Annihilation" through the recommendation of a friend.
This is due to the film baffling both audiences and studios; it lacked sufficient advertisement, receiving promotion only immediately before release. "Annihilation" is sustaining itself off of word of mouth alone. A friend of mine brought it to my attention, saying something along the lines of, "Ok, dude. It is weird. I liked it. It's weird. I'm gonna be processing it for a long time. Dude. Go see it." This is the sentiment of many who have seen the film and is the best-case scenario for anyone walking out of the theater.
On the other hand, you may believe that "Annihilation" may simply confuse you for the sake of confusing you, and will leave you with nothing to do afterward but debate theories and meanings with other viewers. I belong to the former school of thought. As the credits rolled, the audience remained still, attempting to make sense of what they had been shown. I don't have all the answers, but it is a movie worth discussing with others, perhaps even seeing a second time to unpack further.
Many reviewers and critics have compared "Annihilation" to "Arrival," and I believe that they do this because it makes itself hard to describe without comparing it to something else. It is, more simply, a tense sci-fi thriller that pushes the boundaries of the genre. Both it and "Arrival" offer a view of the extraterrestrial not before conveyed in the film.
The movie opens with a small object soaring through space and colliding with Earth, the point of impact being a lighthouse resting on an expansive, sandy shore. We are then taken to the present day, where former soldier turned biologist Lena (Natalie Portman) sits in a sterile room being observed by about a dozen people in hazmat suits.
They ask her to tell her story, and we are taken through the rest of the film in flashback, occasionally returning to the interrogation room to clarify certain details. At the start of her story, Lena is grieving over the presumed death of her husband Kane (Oscar Isaac), whom she met in the Army and has been missing for twelve months after being sent on a confidential mission. He suddenly shows up at their home, seemingly out of the woodwork, much to the shock and joy of Lena. However, he seems to be confused as to where he has been for a year and even who Lena is.
In a further twist of events, government officials arrive and take both Kane and Lena to a covert facility called the Southern Reach. There, Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh) tells Lena about "The Shimmer."
The Shimmer is a wall, of sorts, several miles from the facility at the edge of a forest. It is multicolored and in constant motion, looking much like the exterior of a soap bubble. Dr. Ventress informs Lena that it is slowly expanding outward, and the origin point is the lighthouse from the start of the film.
They've sent many teams of military men into The Shimmer, and not one man has returned save for Lena's husband. Lena, desiring to learn more for her husband's sake, volunteers to go on the next expedition. Armed with automatic weapons, she and Dr. Ventress make up a team of five women.
The other three are the hardy paramedic Anya, (Gina Rodriguez), timid and bookish physicist Josie (Tessa Thompson), and the somewhat melodramatic anthropologist Cass (Tuva Novotny).
It is with their journey into The Shimmer that the movie truly finds it's pace. It's the equivalent of the first fifteen minutes of "Arrival," as our heroine is recruited by the government to explore a never-before-seen phenomenon. That is, however, where the comparison ends.
Rather than show us a creepy, alien entity, as many movies of the genre do, "Annihilation" presents us with a yet unseen alien presence that alters our familiar reality in disturbing ways. Plants exhibit impossible evolutionary behaviors.
Predatory animals are turned into fearsome, mutated monsters. The world that humans have become accustomed to shifts into an alien landscape, containing both familiarity and undiscovered dangers. It is a new world where vibrant plant life and beautiful fauna mask the genetic manipulation of any human who enters it.
I found myself taken by the tone that the movie set for itself, acutely sensitive to every bestial noise and my gaze lingering in the background of otherwise harmless shots, searching for the next threat. The movie thrives in this world, where death can either be tranquil and quiet or grisly and terrifying (a particular bear-mimic hybrid currently governs my nightmares).
All of this leads to a nearly inexplicable climax, which is best described as an acid trip followed by a wordless motion art piece. It successfully makes a classic mirror routine one of the most unsettling things I've seen in recent film.
"Annihilation," by my best analysis, wants the audience to focus on themes of self-destruction as opposed to perfect life. Each team member has nothing to lose, to some degree. There is a discussion of self-destructive behavior being ingrained in each of us, and how the very notion of cells dying on their own is a biological mistake. Meanwhile, the alien world that surrounds our heroes is a beautiful, self-sustaining biome where all genetics are shared.
But it is this lack of clarity in its message that will rifle some viewers. It subverts expectations but to the disappointment of moviegoers who expected a more conventional alien invasion story. In "Independence Day," for example, the alien's motivation is clear: wipe out humanity. In "Arrival," they have knowledge to share. "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" is ultimately a diplomatic inquiry. "Annihilation" is simply a look at an unexplored facet of the genre. It is uncaring and inexplicable, like the cycle of life and death.
Maybe I'm in the ballpark with my analysis, maybe I'm in the wrong stadium, or maybe I'm playing the wrong sport entirely. See the movie for yourself and discuss it excitedly with your friends.
Only through shared speculation is "Annihilation" going to reach new audiences.
Your semester has probably started, and as we’re slowly beckoning for summer to arrive, already you’re wishing for it to end so you can hit the beach, isn’t that right? If this is the case, remember: not everything about going to class is bad. Try looking at the bright side of things or else you won’t be able to make it through the semester.
You can anticipate the feeling of summer, however, with a bit of music while you’re studying. The good thing about studying is going through a million Spotify playlists. If you’re anything like me, you’re used to doing this. What sometimes comes to mind is, “will listening to music be good for me or will it affect my attention?”.
Well, several studies have shown that listening to music before studying or performing other tasks that require your total focus can be beneficial. It improves your memory, attention, and reduces the levels of anxiety and depression.