Greetings from the Ether,
The long awaited release of Annihilation, the film based on Jeff Vandermeer’s 2014 Weird Fiction epic, is finally upon us. Facing a troubled pre-release, with its distribution being limited and the rights bought by Netflix, a lot is riding on Annihilation’s success, which could inevitably dictate the future of thought-provoking science fiction. With last year’s Blade Runner 2049, which struggled to garner financial success despite its universal praise from audiences and critics alike, Annihilation’s importance is unprecedented and within the next few months we’ll likely see a shifting of the guard for cinema and the viability of philosophical cinematic art on the big screen.
While differing from its source material in almost every way, Annihilation is quite possibly the greatest science fiction film to come out in the past three decades, 2016’s Arrival a close contender. When approaching this film, and if you’ve read the novel, we urge you to identify the movie and book as completely separate entities. With this vision in mind, it would be impossible not to appreciate the hallucinogenic, beautiful journey that is Annihilation. Bolstering an all-star cast, and the visionary director of Ex Machina, there isn’t a single moment in the two-hour run time that fails to grip the viewer’s attention. The score by Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury hauntingly embodies the bizarre atmosphere of Area X, the stunning cinematography perfectly breathing life into the peculiar events and startling discoveries made by the expedition.
The nature of Area X is faithfully adapted to the big screen, despite the non-derivative events that encircle the biologist and her team. We are offered many more answers to the mysteries of the Shimmer in the film than we were ever granted in the book. There are also certain aspects that seem to stem from the subsequent two books in Vandermeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy. The changes that were made are necessary, as translating Annihilation to the big screen would require manipulation of the source material due to its ambiguity and reliance of concepts that would be impossible to capture on film. Director Alex Garland operates his tools of filmmaking to the best of his ability, offering us an interpretation that is thought-provoking, philosophical, and visually aesthetic. In his vision, he tackles the nature of right and wrong, good and evil, and masterfully encompasses these themes in a shocking finale that will likely stick with viewers for decades to come.
Annihilation cleverly reinvents body horror and employs the use of CGI methodically, never too overbearing for the viewers but enough to properly portray the essentials of the plot. There are moments of fever dream-like scenarios, white-knuckled suspense, mind-boggling visuals, and scenes that will make us truly question our own understanding of life and our place in the universe. These metaphysical qualities will likely drive common moviegoers away from Annihilation, as cinema has become engrossed with giant robots, monsters, and a lack of intellectual thematic material. The film offers enough harrowing tension and morose scenes to satiate the average audience member, but it never severs its philosophical roots.
To say Annihilation is a perfect film would be to mislead you. There are certain aspects of the movie that veer off from the more important lines of its plot. Most specifically, a subplot involving the biologist and another professor. While this scene is understandable for the development of the biologist’s character, it can easily distract the viewer from the heart of the film. By the end of the movie, this subplot bears little to no weight on the overall themes and philosophy behind Annihilation. Nevertheless, for the film to only have one major flaw is a milestone achievement. Everything else in this 2-hour weird trip is perfect. Great performances, a world that is fresh and innovative, a score and cinematography that work interconnectedly whilst attaining the same shared goals of achieving wonder and awe. The quality of Annihilation surpasses that of any of its contemporaries, offering a bold next step in the future of cinematic science fiction.
We encourage you to see this film, and implore you to see it in theaters. Help support this beautiful venture, and aid in ensuring the future of science fiction cinema. Annihilation is already being hailed as a classic, and for good reason. There hasn’t been a film quite like it before, and its innovations will likely go on to inspire future generations of filmmakers for years to come. The sequels in the Southern Reach Trilogy would be amazing to see on the big screen as well, though this all depends on the success of Annihilation. Buy your tickets, invite your friends to do the same, and support filmmaking like this, as it is becoming rarer and rarer for this type of cinema to gain mainstream precedence. With the advent of horror and its rise to the top of the cinematic food chain, it would be nice to see Science Fiction thrive as well.
OUR RATING: 4.5/5
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