It might be a safe bet to say that Annihilation will probably be one of the most polarizing movies of 2018 because I don’t think audiences are going to love this movie as much as the critics. Everything that I’ve seen in the trailers and heard about reminded me of Arrival, a film hailed by critics as a masterpiece that I just didn’t care for.
My fears only intensified when I discovered that due to a poor test screening, there were concerns that the film was “too intellectual” and “too complicated” for mainstream audiences…Look I understand you put 55 million dollars behind this, but anytime someone says that a film is “too smart” for audiences, its Hollywood’s condescending way of saying that you are too stupid to understand their vision.
Annihilation begins with what appears to be a giant rock that falls from space and slowly begins to take over the land around it called ‘The Shimmer’. After years of failed expeditions, a team of women goes into the mass known as ‘Area X’ to try their hand at discovering the mystery behind what lies inside and why no one has returned.
I completely understand why the test audiences hated this film in the first place. There is no way to sugarcoat this, you are either going to love the ending or hate it. Before I talk about that let’s look at some other things here. As far as the story goes, it is really slow at the beginning. You follow around Natalie Portman’s character of Lena. Lena is a biologist who is sent into Area X after her husband returned from the area clinging to life. You get little flashbacks of her past that ultimately don’t lead to anything and the rest of the cast aren’t really fleshed out enough to be truly invested in.
Hell, you pretty much forget about what these women actually do the second they tell you their job descriptions and that is the key problem. The film essentially drops the ball when it comes to their potential and leaves you hanging. The setup is pretty good; you are introduced to a world where everything is a mutated, beautiful, and sometimes deadlier version of itself, a world where DNA itself is refracted to create endless wonders. It’s an exciting idea, but the film only gives you a taste of a much bigger, more interesting world you wish you could see. The plot gives you just enough to keep you interested to find out where this is going, when you get there however, you may not like it.
I’ve heard many people describe the ending as trippy among other things. The sound mixing and the music make it seem like it was filmed as an entirely different segment than the movie itself. While critics will tout the intellectual brilliance of it, the audiences at my screening just kind of grumbled and slowly walked away when the credits started to roll. If you are looking for a popcorn flick, this isn’t it. If you are looking for horror, Annihilation doesn’t provide it. If you are looking for a sci-fi thriller, this does enough to keep you going along the way, but I can’t guarantee you’ll like your destination when you get there. Annihilation is a film that will have you wondering what could have been rather than what actually was.