Photo from nerdist.com
By Vaidik Trivedi
In 2016, I watched “Arrival,” starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner. It was an exceptionally good science fiction movie, and since then, it feels like there have not been any good science fiction movies. However, “Annihilation,” based on the novel of the same name by Jeff VanderMeer, definitely managed to satisfy those high standards.
The opening scene of the movie might disappoint many sci-fi enthusiasts because it blatantly gives away the ending. However, the movie, directed by Alex Garland and starring Natalie Portman, builds up the suspense anyway until the last second, and that is precisely what keeps the audience still captivated despite knowing the film’s finale. This is one of the unique selling points of this movie. Not many directors can accomplish giving away their ending and still have the attention of the audience.
Lena (Natalie Portman), has survived catastrophic days in ‘the shimmer.’ Sitting in an isolated glass room, distorted, she is being interrogated about what happened to her and her team of five women who entered the shimmer. Through the conversation, we get to know how confusing and eerie this phenomenon is. When a meteor hits U.S. soil, it creates a glass-like structure around a white lighthouse somewhere in Florida. Things can come and go through the glossy wall, but no radio or video signals escape it. This is the shimmer.
Kane (Oscar Isaac), who is Lena’s husband and a soldier, enters the shimmer with his team and comes back totally disoriented and a lone survivor. He suffers from multiple organ failure when he returns from the mystery land. Lena, concerned for her husband’s health, volunteers to go into the shimmer to retrieve some answers in order to help her husband survive.
A team of five female soldiers venture into the shimmer, of which, only Lena comes back. This then provokes the audience to question why only the husband and wife are the sole survivors. In the shimmer, the female A-Team experience all kinds of weird phenomenon, like one plant with different kinds of flowers, plants growing in the shape of human exoskeleton, part-plant part-deer creatures, a bear which is a size of an elephant, a blind six-legged worm which was the size of a cow and a shark-crocodile animal which was neutralized by our Lady Rambo– Lena. CGI effects to create these characters were nowhere near the kind of production we have seen in movies like the “Life Of Pi.” However, it was definitely up to the mark of movies like “Pirates of The Caribbean.”
The group encountered a video in which the previous expeditors lead by Kane, gut one of their own soldiers and exposes a weird eel kind of thing inside the victim. This makes the audience question whether there is something wrong in the shimmer or if the people are just driving themselves insane.
The movie continues to build this suspense until Lena reaches the lighthouse where the meteor struck. The mystery of the shimmer is well explained in the movie. What happens next in the lighthouse is what makes this movie a thoughtful and well written sci-fi.
Garland, who has also directed “Ex-Machina,” has out done himself with “Annihilation.” Despite a few flaws, like overly complicating the movie with unnecessary technical terms and overdramatizing some scenes, the movie was fabulous. The music of the movie at times seemed like it was not in sync with some of the scenes, however it was still somewhat engaging. In broad strokes, the movie’s theme is quite similar to “The Arrival.” Aliens or a meteor come to the earth, and scientists try to decipher what it is, the U.S. government jumps to the conclusion that it is a threat to the humanity, and in the end, there is only a lone survivor, or nothing really happens. But, the kicker of this movie is very different and intriguing. The suspense keeps on building up until the last second of the movie, and in that way, the director has truly created a masterpiece.
So, should you spend your hard-earned money on this movie? Yes. This movie is a must watch for sci-fi lovers and will even entertain any movie enthusiast.