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Review: Annihilation

(L-r) Jennifer Jason Leigh, Natalie Portman, Tuva Novotnyin, Tessa Thompson and Gina Rodriguez star in Paramount Pictures' ANNIHILATION

In spite of what it could have been, Annihilation is the kind of movie that is more than likely disappoint most of the people who watch it. There are some decent ideas that some will like, but it’s hard to believe that any of it will provide enough satisfaction for many to forgive all of its negative attributes. Ultimately, that’s why this won’t be the kind of picture that will be memorable or rewarding for anyone when looking back at it in the future.

Based on Jeff VanderMeer’s best-selling Southern Reach Trilogy, Annihilation follows Lena (Natalie Portman) as she joins a mission that she hopes will allow her to uncover the mysteries behind what happened to her husband (Oscar Isaac). As a part of a team, she enters a sinister and mysterious phenomenon that has been expanding across the American coastline for three years. Once inside, the team discovers a world that provides both beauty and fear as they come to find their lives and their sanity threatened.

As the movie opens, I was allowing myself to settle into the world that was being presented to me. Although I purposely overlooked some of the issues here, it was fine at this point. However, this didn’t last long since certain aspects became harder to disregard right when the team is about to enter “the shimmer.” At this point, I began trying to figure out why no one on the team has on any type of protective gear. We’re told that none of these intelligent people on the outside know what’s inside, so wouldn’t it be smart to wear some that may protect you? They have guns and rations, but no gloves, no headgear or any other protective gear to speak of.

This was something that took me out of Annihilation for a bit. For me, it really set the tone as far as looking at what this movie was going to lack going forward. If you watch and decide to ignore this type of stuff, I understand. In some instances, suspending any use of logic is expected and even necessary in order to be able to enjoy whatever it is that your trying to get into. For films that are simply supposed to be fun, I can accept that, but something that is attempting to be thought-provoking or intelligent won’t receive the same treatment from me.

While that stuff is bothersome, the horrible pacing and the noticeable absence of action that effects the entire movie was impossible for me to ignore as well. From the start, this is a lethargic and lifeless movie that becomes boring at times. Instead of moving forward, Alex Garland chose to slow things down by having pointless scenes of exposition accompany some unnecessary flashback scenes that I’ll get to in a second. This approach only does more harm when you realize there won’t be much action outside of a few underwhelming and nonsensical scenes.

As far as the flashback scenes are concerned, I have to point out that almost the entire movie is presented in this form. I don’t have a problem with the primary flashbacks, but there are another set of flashbacks that don’t really have anything to do with the film. These secondary flashbacks are problematic because they shouldn’t be here. The only way I can put a positive spin on it would be to consider that they were forced to cut some stuff out or they got the crazy idea that they were somehow going to get a sequel out of this.

Either way, Annihilation isn’t good. It needed more tuning up before it could reach that level. Starting with making it faster and trying to answer some obvious questions that get ignored completely would have been a start toward that path. After that, adding a bit more action could have helped even more. Instead of working on stuff like that, Garland delivers a piece of cinema that ends up being a chore to watch. Since he’s still relatively new to directing, he can still improve at his craft. If that happens, maybe he can revisit this kind of movie and create the type of stuff that will warrant mass acclaim.

Rating: R

Director: Alex Garland

Natalie Portman
Jennifer Jason Leigh
Gina Rodriguez
Tessa Thompson
Tuva Novotny
Oscar Isaac

Film Length: 115 minutes

Release Date: February 23, 2018

Distributor: Paramount Pictures

  • Score - 3/10
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