Movie Review: Annihilation (2018)

Movie Review: Annihilation (2018)

Does the new sci-fi thriller improve upon its source material, or does it fall prey to its own problems?

"Annihilation" is a new sci-fi thriller from acclaimed writer/director Alex Garland ("Ex Machina"), based on the 2014 novel of the same name. When evaluating film adaptations of books, it can often be difficult to separate your feelings on the source material from the film's execution of events. It becomes all too easy to pick apart an adaptation because of inaccuracies to the book or casting decisions that do not reflect the reader's mental image of a given character, and so forth. Adapting books to screen, particularly a book like "Annihilation", which is focused on the main character's internal thoughts, is a difficult process and it is more useful to determine its measure of success on how closely the film captures the general idea and spirit of the source material rather than its accuracy of minutiae. On that note, the film adaptation of "Annihilation" fails both at capturing the spirit of the novel while also failing to work as a compelling thriller in its own right.

The film is told in flashbacks as Lena (Natalie Portman), a biologist, is interviewed in a government facility. She is the only surviving member of a group of five scientists who were sent to investigate a large swath of land known only as "the shimmer", an area subject to strange phenomena and from which no previous expedition had returned. Lena, it is revealed, was recruited onto the team after her husband, Kane (Oscar Isaac), inexplicably appeared in her home a year after his own expedition team disappeared in the shimmer. Both the government and Lena are want to find out what happened to Kane's team and why he is suddenly suffering from multiple organ failure after his return from the shimmer. As Lena and the expedition team venture into the shimmer, they notice strange mutations in the flora and fauna, and begin to wonder if these mutations may be affecting them as well. After finding video footage of Kane's team mutilating a mutated crew member, Lena's expedition team begins to descend into paranoia as they advance toward their assigned destination point, a lighthouse.

The biggest problem I have with "Annihilation" is its lack of drive. There is never a sense of urgency in the story. The expedition team merely wanders from point to point, discovering clues at random intervals. Their destination is a lighthouse, but there is no urgency in the plot to get there. Even as the scientists are picked off by mutant creatures and the forces present in the shimmer, there is no sense of increased tension or rising action. We know that Lena will be the only survivor since she is recounting the story in flashbacks, which further hampers any chance at suspense. In particular, there is a scene in which the crew is attacked by a mutated bear creature. It is difficult to remain invested in the proceedings because we already know Lena will make it out alive; it is merely a question of which of the other scientists will get eaten, and the movie hardly cares enough about the supporting characters for me to care either. The other four members of the expeditions are varying degrees of bland, with a particularly underwhelming performance from Jennifer Jason Leigh. I think she was attempting reserved stoicism, but it comes across like she is half-asleep for most of her scenes.

My other issue with "Annihilation" is its lack of atmosphere. The shimmer is supposed to be uncanny and off-putting, a subtle distortion of normality. Unfortunately the production design team took that to mean "make everything look like an oil slick rainbow". The movie is an eyesore, full of garish colors and lens flares. Hardly what I would call unsettling. Even the mutated plants and animals are underwhelming. There is fluorescent-colored lichen every now and then, and some weird flowers. How spooky. The creature design is limited to "what if regular animals had more teeth than normal, or maybe a skull face?". The concept of the uncanny, that not-quite-right unease, is a difficult one to achieve in movies, but "Annihilation" does not even try to make an attempt.

I wanted to like "Annihilation". The book is full of interesting ideas and an unsettling atmosphere, but is too vague on many key plot details to really work as a whole. I had hoped that the film adaptation could improve on the novel's weaknesses and strengthen the ill-defined details, all while maintaining the creepy atmosphere of the uncanny and paranoia. While the film certainly does restructure the book (to the point where it barely resembles it), it does so in a way that does not improve upon the novel's structural issues. The flashbacks-within-flashbacks in the film are somehow even clunkier than the regular flashbacks in the novel. "Annihilation" is a film that does not work as an adaptation nor as a standalone work. I wish the movie had been better, but like many other book adaptations before it, maybe "Annihilation" just was not meant to be adapted to the screen.

Rating: 4/10

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

Popular Right Now

35 Major Life Facts According To Nick Miller

"All booze is good booze, unless it's weak booze."

Fact: If you watch "New Girl," you love Nick Miller.

You can't help it. He's an adorable, lovable mess of a man and you look forward to seeing him and his shenanigans each week. While living the infamous and incomparable life of Nick Miller, and obviously Julius Pepperwood— he has learned many valuable laws of the land. And, although Nick refuses to learn anything from anyone besides his mysterious, old Asian friend Tran, he does have a few lessons he'd like to teach us.

Here are 35 facts of life according to 'Nick Milla Nick Milla':

1. Drinking keeps you healthy.

"I'm not gonna get sick. No germ can live in a body that is 65% beer."

2. Dinosaurs never existed.

"I don't believe dinosaurs existed. I've seen the science. I don't believe it."

3. A paper bag is a bank.

"A bank is just a paper bag but with fancier walls."

4. Having sex is similar to delivering mail.

"I'm like a mailman, except instead of mail it's hot sex that I deliver."

5. Moonwalking is a foolproof way to get out of any awkward situation.

Jess (about Nick): "Now he won't even talk to me. I saw him this morning and he just panic moonwalked away from me. He does that sometimes."

6. Using a movie reference is also a great way.

Cece: "Come on, get up!"

Nick: "No, I don't dance. I'm from that town in "Footloose."

7. There's no reason to wash towels.

Nick: "I don’t wash the towel. The towel washes me. Who washes a towel?"

Schmidt: "You never wash your towel?"

Nick: "What am I gonna do? Wash the shower next? Wash a bar of soap?"

8. Exes are meant to be avoided at all costs (especially if/unless they're Caroline)

"I don't deal with exes, they're part of the past. You burn them swiftly and you give their ashes to Poseidon."

9. IKEA furniture is not as intimidating as it looks.

"I'm building you the dresser. I love this stuff. It's like high-stakes LEGOs."

10. You don't need forks if you have hands.

Jess: "That's gross. Get a fork, man."

Nick: "I got two perfectly good forks at the end of my arms!"

11. Sex has a very specific definition.

"It's not sex until you put the straw in the coconut."

12. Doors are frustrating.

"I will push if I want to push! Come on! I hate doors!"

13. All booze is good booze.

"Can I get an alcohol?"

14. ...unless it's weak booze.

"Schmidt, that is melon flavored liquor! That is 4-proof! That is safe to drink while you're pregnant!"

15. Writers are like pregnant women.

Jess: "You know what that sound is? It's the sound of an empty uterus."

Nick: "I can top that easily. I'm having a hard time with my zombie novel."

Jess: "Are you really comparing a zombie novel to my ability to create life?"

Nick: "I'm a writer, Jess. We create life."

16. All bets must be honored.

"There is something serious I have to tell you about the future. The name of my first-born child needs to be Reginald VelJohnson. I lost a bet to Schmidt."

17. Adele's voice is like a combination of Fergie and Jesus.

"Adele is amazing."

18. Beyoncé is extremely trustworthy.

"I'd trust Beyoncé with my life. We be all night."

19. Fish, on the other hand, are not.

“Absolutely not. You know I don’t trust fish! They breathe water. That's crazy!"

20. Bar mitzvahs are terrifying.

Schmidt: "It's a bar mitzvah!"

Nick: "I am NOT watching a kid get circumcised!"

21. are blueberries.

Jess: "So far, Nick Miller's list of fears is sharks, tap water, real relationships..."

Nick: "And blueberries."

22. Take your time with difficult decisions. Don't be rash.

Jess: "You care about your burritos more than my children, Nick?"

Nick: "You're putting me in a tough spot!"

23. Getting into shape is not easy.

"I mean, I’m not doing squats or anything. I’m trying to eat less donuts."

24. We aren't meant to talk about our feelings.

"If we needed to talk about feelings, they would be called talkings."

25. We're all a little bit too hard on ourselves.

"The enemy is the inner me."

26. Freezing your underwear is a good way to cool off.

"Trust me, I'm wearing frozen underpants right now and I feel amazing. I'm gonna grab some old underpants and put a pair into the freezer for each of you."

27. Public nudity is normal.

"Everbody has been flashed countless times."

28. Alcohol is a cure-all.

"You treat an outside wound with rubbing alcohol. You treat an inside wound with drinking alcohol."

29. Horses are aliens.

"I believe horses are from outer-space."

30. Turtles should actually be called 'shell-beavers.'

Jess: "He calls turtles 'shell-beavers."

Nick: "Well, that's what they should be called."

31. Trench coats are hot.

"This coat has clean lines and pockets that don't quit, and it has room for your hips. And, when I wear it, I feel hot to trot!"

32. Sparkles are too.

"Now, my final bit of advice, and don't get sensitive on this, but you've got to change that top it's terrible and you've got to throw sparkles on. Sparkles are in. SPARKLES ARE IN."

33. Introspection can lead to a deeper knowing of oneself.

"I'm not convinced I know how to read. I've just memorized a lot of words."

34. It's important to live in the moment.

"I know this isn't gonna end well but the middle part is gonna be awesome."

35. Drinking makes you cooler.

Jess: "Drinking to be cool, Nick? That's not a real thing."

Nick: "That's the only thing in the world I know to be true."

Cover Image Credit: Hollywood Reporter

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

The Zodiac Signs As Bath And Body Works Scents

Just in case you want to know what scent you are!

Bath and Body Works fans could be considered to be part of a cult. The scents draw you in as if calling your name, if you ever
wondered what your scent should be based on your zodiac sign, here it is!

Aries: Country Apple

The rather impulsive Aries takes their time picking and choosing the scents from Bath and Body Works. The soothing scent of a fresh apple orchard is just what they need on a daily basis to keep up with their shenanigans.

Taurus: Japanese Cherry Blossom

The personality of a Taurus is stubborn, or what I like to say, is stuck in their ways. When they first discovered this scent in middle school, this was it. This is the only scent you will find anywhere around a Taurus.

Libra: Pink Chiffon

Pink Chiffon is another cult classic. This best selling scent went out of style for a hot second but is back and bigger than ever.

Leo: Thousand Wishes

Thousand Wishes is a purr-fect scent for a Leo. The light scent adornes the wearer just the right amount to get the desired reaction from those around them.

Aquarius: Be Enchanted

The rather cold personality of an Aquarius is counteracted by the loving scent of Be Enchanted. The scent is just enough tenderness for the wearer to be relaxed.

Gemini: Moonlight Path

Gemini's constantly change their favorite scent and are in and out of the store almost weekly to by new lotions, candles, and body washes. You will never see a full empty bottle of anything, however, Moonlight Path is the scent they keep coming back to again and again.

Virgo: Sea Island Cotton

The clean personality of a Virgo must be matched with the clean scent of Sea Island Cotton.

Capricorn: Cucumber Melon

Another clean scent of Cucumber Melon is the exact thing a Capricorn needs. The balance and calming scents are what make this scent so attractive to a Capricorn.

Scorpio: Paris Amour

The light scent is what you would expect from an extreme sign like a Scorpio. The scent lightly washes over the wearer in almost a cloud that

Sagittarius: Cashmere Glow

Cashmere Glow is a perfect scent for the winter sign. The vanilla and golden peach scent is just the mixture that creates the perfect accessory in the chilly months.

Pisces: Warm Vanilla Sugar

This lovely scent accentuates the lovely personality of a Pisces. They can never get enough of this scent so they just keep buying and buying until they have a full stockpile.

Cancer: Velvet Sugar

Velvet Sugar is the perfect blend of red velvet and strawberries and a Cancer is always changing their mind. The wearer can tell if it is a more red velvet or strawberry kind of day, and that is the balance that they need in their lives.

Related Content

Facebook Comments