Review by J.T. Johnson
I want to state for the record that I love Alex Garland as a writer, which includes films such as “28 Days Later”, “Dredd”, and “Ex Machina”. Also, with “Ex Machina”, he became one of the great new directors that I wanted to keep my eye on! Unfortunately, films like “28 Days Later” and “Ex Machina” also entertained you while making you think and I can’t exactly say that about Garland’s second directorial effort, “Annihilation”.
The movie follows Lena (Natalie Portman), a biologist who is married to an Army soldier that she used to serve with named Kane (Oscar Isaac). The only problem is that he is acting differently and after he has an attack with multiple organ failure, he and Lena are soon captured by a secret organization and swept away to a place known only as Area X. As seen at the top of the film, a meteor crashed into a lighthouse and a wall known only as the Shimmer began to expand from the source.
Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh) explains that they have been sending in teams to study what’s inside the Shimmer and that Kane was a part of the latest expedition. Lena decides that she wants to be a part of the next group so that she can discover what exactly happened to Kane and his men as well as get Kane the help he needs. What follows is a strange sequence of events that’s never fully explained and, quite frankly, I found that I didn’t care for what was happening most of the time.
Don’t get me wrong, the film is quite beautiful and there are some great visuals here. Garland’s role as a director is perfect and I have no problems in that department. Also, the cast is pretty damn stellar as well. Portman and Isaac give solid performances as well as the other cast mates.
The problem comes strictly from the story itself. Throughout most of the film, I am introduced to well acted robots resembling characters that I guess I’m supposed to care about. Unfortunately, by the end of the film, I care for none of them so when and if anything interesting happens, I’m not really invested enough hope that they survive.
This film sets up a mystery to be solved and it even seems to promise that it will do just that. By the end of it, though, you don’t get all of the answers. Sometimes, not getting all of the answers is perfectly fine, especially if it is a film that is trying to get you to think. The only difference here is that those other films, such as “Blade Runner” or “2001: A Space Odyssey”, generally give you enough information to draw some of your own conclusions.
In “Annihilation”, I was left wondering what had happened and why I should even care with a healthy dose of boredom to boot. Maybe this film will make some of the audience members think and maybe I’ll revisit the film one day and come out thinking, “Oh, that’s what that was all about.” Right now, I’m just disappointed by a film that left me less entertained and more frustrated with its ambition.