Annihilation Confusing, Disturbing

Annihilation poster The critics and I vastly disagree on this film. Most of them praise this film highly, whereas I think it’s much like a bunch of writers threw their scripts in a blender to see what would come out. Unfortunately, it’s this. Basically, this movie falls in the “let’s remake something with an all-female cast”, which, as 47 Metres Down and the recent Ghostbusters rehash pointed out, rarely works.

The first scene shows us a meteorite breaching our atmosphere and crashing into a lighthouse. For some reason, the lighthouse is NOT totally destroyed by the strike. From there we switch to a school where former soldier Lena (Natalie Portman) is teaching biology. We are forced to endure meaningless dialogue that reveals her husband is MIA during an assignment for the government at Area X, which is being affected by something called The Shimmer, and is where the meteorite crashed. Lena is as surprised as we are when her husband reappears. He becomes violently ill and gets whisked away by an ambulance.

Annihilation 3 This is where things start to unravel alarmingly. The ambulance gets stopped by military troops and Lena is drugged, eventually waking up at Area X and meeting Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh), who is in charge of an upcoming mission to The Shimmer with an all-female crew because previous all-male crews never made it back, except for Lena’s husband Kane (Oscar Issaac). Lena wants answers so she joins the mission too.

Annihilation 2 The Shimmer seems to be, or at least looks like, a 1960s drug-induced psychedelic nightmare, where everything is made up of similar matter that is not quite plant life, yet not quite animal. The ladies encounter a huge alligator, then some nebulous carnivore that winds up being able to use the voice of the woman it killed before being itself dispatched. Along the way, the women find a videotape from Kane’s expedition that shows a gruesome operation. The women decide to reach the lighthouse, but only Lena makes it there. As the confusing story unfolds we get bits of Lena’s post-mission debriefing mixed with shots of her mission as well as unnecessary asides into Lena’s affair with one of her fellow teachers.

Annihilation 1 When Lena finally reaches the coast, a lot of the scenery is crystallised (why, we are never told). and inside the lighthouse she finds a body that turns out to be her husband, along with a video camera that reveals how he died. Voices lead her to a tunnel below the lighthouse where she runs into an alien that takes the form of the dead Dr. Ventress. Lena shoots the alien, but when she makes it out of the tunnel she is met by yet another alien, whom she dispatches with an explosive similar to what her husband used on himself.

In the end, Lena is told her husband recovered when the lighthouse was destroyed and they embrace as she asks “you’re not really Kane, are you?”, and this stirs the pot one final time. What purpose did all this serve? Could it be the prelude to an alien invasion, or just a reaffirmance that women can screw up a sci-fi plot just as well as men? The answers are NOT forthcoming, and I don’t think this movie will last more than two weeks in theatres—it’s THAT bad.

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