Annihilation (2018) Film Review

Alex Garland’s new film that was theatrically released in North America but released through Netflix in the UK. If there is one negative about Netflix’s distribution model is that this film would of been fantastic in the cinema.

Annihilation stars Natalie Portman playing Lena, a former US soldier whose husband, Kane, goes missing after going on a secret spy mission. He returns after a year of being declared missing and collapses.  Lena and Kane go to the facility that he came from and Lena is told of a ‘Shimmer’ that Kane was in. It was a place that was created from a meteorite hitting a lighthouse that created a portal to a different world. Kane’s mission was to go to the lighthouse. Lena decides to join the next mission to the lighthouse and enters the Shimmer with four other women.

This film is very divisive and the experience could be linked of how and where you watched this film. Similar to Gravity (2013) Annihilation’s experience is enhanced by watching it in the cinema. Living in the UK I was able to watch it on Netflix. It looked fantastic. Inside the Shimmer there was a slight rainbow filter on things. The expansive landscapes were full of kaleidoscopic beauty. It was a real visual treat to the eyes that one wishes it could of been viewed on full widescreen in the cinema.  It was a visually fantastic world that would of been good to see more of.

Where the divisive nature comes into is the pacing of the film. It is horrendously slow and takes far too long to get into gear. When we finally get into the shimmer we get introduced to the crew of women but we don’t really get much development from any of them. The characters are so simplistic that we get a line of exposition from them all each and that’s really it. It is a shame because there was potential for their to be some sort of chemistry but the crew were expendable.

The creatures within the Shimmer were great and the bear like creature was terrifying. The scene with the creature was full of tension and a high point in the film’s middle part of which was in danger of being sluggish. A further exploration of the creatures of the Shimmer would of been much adored but yet again the potential is limited by how much we get to see. There is a revelation within the Shimmer that had the potential to create fantastical, terrifying creatures but we didn’t see this chance of creativity take place.

The film for me saves itself with the final 20 minutes of the film in the lighthouse. The ending has similarities of that of 2001: A Space Odyssey, I will not reveal the ending but it was trippy and fun to watch. The ending was ambiguous and a huge tonal change from the rest of the film.  It was great to look at and very arthouse in its representation. The ending leaves a lot of discussion and that is what I like about films, the questions and discussion afterwards. If it wasn’t for this fantastic ending, this film would be entirely lost by me. It was different and unique and a mess-with-the-head ending that I like.

  Annihilation is a film that is visually fantastic and deserved a worldwide theatrical release however the story and ending facilitated a film that could not be released worldwide because it would not sell well. This film had a lot of potential with it’s premise, visual direction and ambiguous ending. This film was almost good but was let down by very slow pacing, one dimensional characters and not enough time spent in the Shimmer. Maybe it is where I saw the film, but no cinema could hide the fact that this film could and should of been fantastic but sadly it just wasn’t.


Rating – ★★ 1/2

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