I never really write reviews, since I don’t think I’m particularly worthy of shredding someone’s work into pieces and then analyzing it. So… let’s call this one – “My personal-subjective-might-not-agree-with-yours opinion”. I think that most critics give themselves too much importance and merit. Most of them probably feel like there should be Beethoven’s 5th playing in the background whenever they enter a room, but alas…
Anyway, it’s like my mother always says: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, someone might gut-punch you.” You’re welcome. So, this will basically be me singing a praise to this delight of a movie in a capella D minor.
I wasn’t really keen on watching ‘Annihilation’, as the whole fairy tale, “enchanted forest” scenery kinda made me hesitant. I’m not really big on the epic fantasy genre and this one made me think of that… but
I was so wrong!
We all knew Alex Garland, thanks to his widely acclaimed novel “The Beach” (1996), which lead to Danny Boyle’s film of the same title. If you can’t quite remember, it’s the one where DiCaprio is still pretty and slim, AND half-naked on the beach. Anyway, a few books and scripts later, and he had his directorial debut with 2014’s masterpiece ‘Ex Machina’. I’m not a science fiction fan, but even I was thrilled with this one.
I suppose that the success of Ex Machina was a force to be reckoned with, and it was certainly hard to follow, but Garland didn’t seem to have any problem with it. In February Annihilation came, and it was praised and glorified by the critics, and rightfully so. However, the film flopped at the box office, and in my humble opinion, being released alongside ‘Game Night’, and close to ‘Black Panther’ might have had something to do with it. It is such a pity, because this movie is one a fine chunk of entertainment, and people really missed out.
I will try to do this one with as little spoilers as humanly possible.
In the beginning I thought the whole reminiscence and weird, probably extraterrestrial presence of the phenomenon adequately called ‘The Shimmer’, looked a lot like 2016’s ‘Arrival’. Later on, Garland’s exquisite directorial mastery proved me wrong. This movie is unlike anything I’ve seen before. Hichcockian slow building suspense, Craven-like bending and twisting of multiple genres, aaaand a pinch of Rob Zombie’s “charm” to give it all a bit of creepy quality – that’s how I would describe this movie to someone unfamiliar with the works of Alex Garland.
Special effects were done by the Oscar winner and wizard Andrew Whitehurst, so you know right away this movie will feel like entering another world, real, palpable and believable. I mean that horrifying CG half-corps half-bear!…Dude, I almost covered my eyes, and trust me, that is a big thing, cause I’ve seen pretty much everything when it comes to gory movie effects. But the creepy gray mutated corps/bear which vocalizes beastly roars combined with his latest victim’s tortuous, agonizing screams? Nope, that was a new one even for me. I’ll quote a character, Josie Radek here, because her words explain feelings this beast brings in you once you see it.
“Imagine dying frightened and in pain, and having that as the only part that survives.”
I could go on forever with praising all of the terrific CG effects in this movie: alligator crossbred with a shark, moving intestines in that one dude’s stomach, creepy colorful plants which form the shapes of men, women and children, freaky skeletal crystal trees, those multiplying cells that make you feel like you’re tripping on acid or something, and OMG that twisted mimicking alien with those weird techno noises!…I think I’ve covered one third of all the harrowing things going on in this movie.
Natalie Portman played the lead, and she was as marvelous as expected, and her on-screen husband Oscar Isaac as well. All of the girls who went into ‘The Shimmer’ gave some powerful performances. Jenifer Jason Leigh was terrific as a stubborn, dying Dr. Ventros, Tuva Novotni made us miss her even though she wasn’t there long, and Tessa Thompson touched our hearts with that last speech she gave. However, I must specifically point out the lovely and exceptional Gina Rodrigez, who totally brought it as a chatty, easy-going Anya Thorensen. Rodrigez managed to deliver Anya’s path to madness with some outstanding authenticity and credibility, which is something only great actors can do.
I loved the end of the movie as well. It was heavy and mind-blowing, and any other ending possibility would just kill the story. Garland did his very best with this one, and I strongly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t seen it yet.