Annihilation

Updated: Nov 4, 2021

It's hard to believe that September is already at an end! Writing these daily reviews has been a pleasure (never mind the website issue I have been fighting for weeks now.) In my first year of these reviews, I have tried to mix up the reviews' style to offer variety as I find my own voice. Needless to say, it has been an adventure as I experiment with change.


Speaking of change...


What do you do when you are faced with an unexplained change that you cannot control. Everything about the change is a mystery. Determined to figure it out, you embark on an expedition that is every bit as internal as it is external. When you finally come face to face with the change, how do you react? Do you examine it? Do you accept the reality of it? Would you confront this change head-on, or would you embrace it and allow it to overcome you?


Perhaps instead, you seek to destroy the change but realize that you have changed anyway, no matter what you do. How do you deal with change beyond your control when faced with your own internal...

 

Annihilation (2018)

Directed by: Alex Garland

Written by: Alex Garland (screenplay); Jeff VanderMeer (novel)

Music by: Ben Salisbury; Geoff Barrow

Stars: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Oscar Isaac, Tuva Novotny, Benedict Wong, Sonoya Mizuno, David Gyasi

Watch on: Amazon Prime

Review: Alpha 9.30.21.0029

 

Annihilation begins when a lighthouse in the southern United States was believed to have been hit by a meteorite. Instead, it must be something else because the lighthouse is slowly enveloped by what could best be described as a bubble.

Over the next few years, the bubble grows, expanding outward. It is called The Shimmer due to its colorful luminescence. Several exploratory teams have been sent inside, but no one has ever returned. That is until a soldier named Kane returns home to his wife after being gone for a year.

Annihilation is intercut between current events of a team of five women who go inside The Shimmer and flashbacks of Lena with her husband Kane, the soldier, or her lover, Daniel. Lena is initially motivated to help her husband, who is now quarantined and in a coma. Lena, a biologist, is teamed with Anya, a paramedic, Josie, a physicist, Cass, a linguist, and led by Dr. Ventress, a psychologist.

As they enter The Shimmer, they immediately notice weird things are happening. They have lost an accurate sense of time. Communications are distorted trying to go out of the bubble, the compasses spin, and there are mutations in plants. Lena observes that there are several different flowers, but they are all growing from the same organism. This leads to more extraordinary discoveries of mutations when the team finds an abandoned home on the edge of the swamp. It is there that Josie is attacked and pulled inside the house, which is flooded by some unseen thing. Josie is rescued, and the team retreats to dry ground to watch as the water erupts in splashes. At that moment, an alligator launches itself from the water and attacks the group. It is eventually killed by Lena, who conducts a brief postmortem examination. Looking inside the creature's mouth, they discover an unusual placement of teeth more akin to that of a shark than any reptile. They are perplexed by this, but they develop a hypothesis that everything inside The Shimmer is mutated.

As they go deeper, they come across an abandoned military base that was once the FOB for observing The Shimmer. There they find gear, weapons, and a memory stick for a video camera left in a plastic bag addressed to whoever comes next. The group watches the video where they see a group of soldiers, led by Kane, as they cut open a fellow soldier's stomach. They see that his intestines are moving like a worm or snake!

After they regroup, they notice that Kane's team has set up a defensive perimeter. Feeling they should do the same, Dr. Ventress and Lena set up outside when they hear a commotion. They investigate to see the fence has been ripped open. Cass, who has befriended Lena, comes out to see what is happening. At that point, Cass is attacked and dragged off by something huge. Her screams of "Help me" carry in the dark until they are abruptly cut off.

The following day the group proceeds towards the lighthouse when they come across tracks and then a severed foot that belonged to Cass. Lena investigates the area and finds Cass' body. She returns and tells the group that she found Cass, that Cass is dead, and they need to carry on.

More and more mutations are discovered as they settle in an abandoned house. Most fascinating of all are flowering plants that grew in the shape of humans. It is here that Josie says if Lena were to examine the plant's genome, she would find the human DNA responsible for building the human structure. Lena agrees because she has secretly observed what is happening on her cellular level back at the base.

That night, are argument breaks out where Anya overwhelms and ties up the rest of the group. She has learned that Lena knows Kane and hid it from the group, except for Dr. Ventress. Anya rambles about how she feels her mind detach and is about to kill Lena when Cass' voice is heard screaming "help me" outside. She runs out, and there is a roar followed by Anya screaming, then silence. That is when the creature enters.


It is a bear but a badly mutated bear. It walks to and through the three tied-up women, alternately letting out roars and the "help me" screams that came from Cass. The bear mutant has somehow absorbed part of Cass' vocal cords! The bear then attacks, but Anya comes in, injured but upright. The bear charges and kills her. Meanwhile, Lena has freed herself, and as the bear attacks Dr. Ventress, Lena shoots and kills the mutant bear creature.


The next morning, Dr. Ventress takes off to the lighthouse on her own. Lena and Josie are still at the house, where they discuss what is happening inside The Shimmer. They ponder that things are not being destroyed but rather changed. Josie, who initially was quiet and reserved, as well as someone who would cut herself, has embraced the change. Despite Lena begging her not to, Josie walks off and allows herself to become transformed and become a part of The Shimmer.

Lena now finds herself on the beach, where there are human-ish skeletons along the coast and trees that appear to be made of crystal. She enters the lighthouse and finds a charred skeleton and a camera. She watches the video and sees that her husband is speaking with someone. He is explaining how he is unsure if he is even a man anymore. He then tells the cameraman if he's ever seen a phosphorus grenade before, saying "it's bright" before it explodes. When the flash subsides, we see the cameraman is actually the Kane that is quarantined. This Kane is a doppelgänger, something from The Shimmer itself.

Lena descends into the hole created by the meteor where she finds Ventress explains that The Shimmer will spread to cover the world and change everything, saying this is annihilation. She then disintegrates into a glowing light. The light absorbs a drop of blood from Lena's face, creating a humanoid entity that mimics Lena.

Unable to escape from her doppelgänger, Lena hands it one of her phosphorus grenades as it transforms into an identical copy of her. Lena activates the grenade and flees from the lighthouse, but the doppelgänger stays behind. Set ablaze by the grenade, it crawls back into the hole, igniting the lighthouse which ignites the crystal trees. As the trees and lighthouse collapse, so does The Shimmer.

At the facility, where we cut back and forth in the movie, Lena's interviewer concludes that The Shimmer would have destroyed Earth. Lena disagrees, saying she believes that the entity was actually trying to create something based on the genetic codes inside The Shimmer, also referred to as a prism.

She takes a drink from a glass of water where we see droplets on the side move sideways and merge with each other. Lena visits doppelgänger Kane and asks if he is really Kane. He answers, "I don't think so." He then asks if she is Lena, who does not respond. Kane embraces Lena as their irises shimmer.

 

Annihilation is a trippy, psychedelic movie that isn't easy to review and have a conversation about. There are undoubtedly going to be different meanings to different viewers. I know this because I read this book recently in a class called "Climate Monsters," and the interpretations of many of my classmates were focused on climate change. However, the book and the movie deal with far more than this. This movie is also about self-destruction, biological evolution (both natural and manipulated), co-dependent relationships, and we can no longer trust our own minds and bodies. Annihilation is a movie (and book) that persists in your mind and runs rampant with your imagination.

It's a kaleidoscopic SciFi movie, one that makes you think "what if" as much as "what the fuck!"


Warp 7 on the SciFi drive.


Be sure to read Mr. Pat's review of Annihilation for our first crossover event!

(Review available on October 1. 2021)

 

Next Review: See you on September 1, 2022 for Season 2!

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