Annihilation (2018) A (Mildly) Belated Review

I know, I know…

I should be working on my latest draft of my latest Corrosive Knights novel but I was feeling a bit fried and wanted to let my head cool off a little before taking the plunge.

I checked out my voluminous DVR list (as opposed to my voluminous Digital Movie list… another day!) and found the 2018 film Annihilation there.

I’ve been curious to see the movie since hearing it was like a modern version of an H. P. Lovecraft story (I think more specifically The Colour Out of Space, which was made into a film with Nicolas Cage in 2019 and is another of those films on my list to see… when I get the chance!).

Annihilation has plenty of stars, the biggest names of which are Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Oscar Isaac, and Tessa Thompson. However, I recall it was released and didn’t do all that well in theaters and was gone pretty quick. Afterwards, though, when the movie reached home video it seemed to find some love and now and again I stumble upon people who offer good words about the film, which is the principle reason I recorded it and decided to give it a shot.

Here’s the movie’s trailer:

Based on a novel by Jeff VanderMeer, Annihilation is indeed similar, IMHO to other works, not least of which is Lovecraft’s The Colour Out of Space but also thematically very similar to the wonderful (and, if we’re going to go there, far better) 1979 Andrei Tarkovsky film Stalker.

Just for the hell of it, here’s the trailer to Stalker

Natalie Portman plays university biologist/ex-soldier Lena, a woman whose husband has disappeared a year ago after being sent on some top secret mission and who, we come to find out, tried cheated on her husband with a fellow professor but that went to hell (I have to be upfront here and say: This romantic subplot, IMHO, was totally unnecessary, at least in the context of the film proper. Maybe it meant more in the book).

So her husband’s disappeared and she feels guilty because maybe her husband knew she was cheating on him (this part is rather vague) and then one day, out of the blue, her husband re-appears.

However, he is… strange. He doesn’t seem to know where he was or how he got back home. Worse, he says he doesn’t feel well and spits up blood. An ambulance is called but en-route to the hospital some dark SUVs surround the ambulance and drug Lena.

She awakens at some army outpost and is told her husband is dying. Turns out a year or so ago a meteor fell by a lighthouse (we see this in the movie’s opening seconds) and since then a weird color field has been expanding out of it. Turns out Lena’s husband and a group of soldiers entered that field and didn’t come out… so how did the husband show up?

Further to that, Lena learns a new group of women are going into the field. She asks to join them and is allowed to.

What follows is a journey into some serious weirdness, tragedy, and death…

By and large I enjoyed Annihilation. While it shares the “group goes into the weird zone to explore it” plot found in Stalker, Annihilation presents a far more grounded and simple story when all is said and done.

That doesn’t mean its a bad film, not by a long shot.

There are some brilliant moments in the film, including a couple of truly eerie and horrifying ones, and the mystery of what is going on -which, again, when resolved proves rather simple- is nonetheless intriguing enough to keep you interested during the film’s runtime.

The problem, for me, is that when it ends -indeed how it ends, too- seemed so very… blah. I don’t want to spoil things, but when all was said and done I felt as I said above: This film, while eerie and at times haunting, simply wasn’t all that deep in its conception and resolution.

In other words, it kinda ended like I thought it would.

Still, I can’t fault the producers/director/writers/actors for this film. They obviously put in a great effort and, again, there are some very startling scenes.

The film is certainly worth a look but if you want to try something really head-spinning which features a similar concept, you’re better off checking out Stalker.