Colby's Critiques

'Annihilation' shows how powerless man is in nature

By COLBY DENTON

Posted 3/2/18

“Annihilation” blasts its way to a “Fresh” rating on the Rotten Tomatoes meter as it combines horror, drama and sci-fi in a combination that works.

Starring Natalie Portman and Oscar …

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Colby's Critiques

'Annihilation' shows how powerless man is in nature

Lena, a biologist portrayed by Natalie Portman, examines the mutated teeth of an albino alligator in the quarantined area known as the Shimmer. "Annihilation" provides numerous metaphors for facing our own inner demons, and how our human lives can affect nature.
Lena, a biologist portrayed by Natalie Portman, examines the mutated teeth of an albino alligator in the quarantined area known as the Shimmer. "Annihilation" provides numerous metaphors for facing our own inner demons, and how our human lives can affect nature.
AP photo
Posted

“Annihilation” blasts its way to a “Fresh” rating on the Rotten Tomatoes meter as it combines horror, drama and sci-fi in a combination that works.

Starring Natalie Portman and Oscar Isaac, as well as several others, “Annihilation” is based on the novel of the same name by Jeff VanderMeer. The film tells the story of Lena, who is a biologist and Army veteran whose husband is still currently being deployed routinely. Her husband, played by Oscar Isaac, disappeared for 12 months and is assumed dead. Much to her surprise, he randomly appears to Lena at the start of the film, albeit incredibly sick. Lena discovers that her husband was the sole survivor of his last mission, an unorthodox one that required its participants to venture into an extraterrestrial area of the Southeast called Area X, or the Shimmer.

Lena, who has a strained relationship with her husband due to his lack of presence in her life, has believed him dead for several months. As he is more or less comatose, she demands to know what befell him and his comrades in the Shimmer. An expedition is created consisting of a psychologist, paramedic, physicist, geologist and biologist Lena to enter the Shimmer and report their findings on what the area contains.

The Shimmer is characterized by a large wall of pulsing energy that resembles an oil slick lying on air. As only Kane, Lena’s husband, has returned, no one is aware of the Shimmer’s contents, or what causes its occupants to disappear.

Shortly after entering the Shimmer, the team notices countless mutations in plant and animal life, including cross-species mutations such as a shark and an alligator, which is biologically impossible, at least outside of the Shimmer. As an extraterrestrial explanation is fairly obvious, the possibilities of what could happen to the team are endless.

“Annihilation” certainly earned its “Fresh” rating, as it combines excellent acting, a good story and sheer terror in some spots. While having an ending somewhat reminiscent of “Alien,” “Annihilation” is a movie all its own.

The acting in this movie was superb; I was constantly feeling the overall helplessness of team members as they encountered mutated creatures and obstacles that no one could ever anticipate. They also conveyed the ever-encroaching madness that characterizes the Shimmer, as normal creatures spending just a short amount of time within its mutagenic boundaries tend to find their DNA altered, and their minds incredibly exhausted.

Story was something I was a bit worried about going into this film. I thought, “Hey, if it’s just a creature horror flick, that’s fine,” but when films try to get too in-depth with the sci-fi plot, it tends to often lose general moviegoers. While “Annihilation” doesn’t have a crystal clear ending, it is still left ambiguous enough for a normal viewer to imagine. Metaphors abound in this film. Self-destruction is an ever-present factor of humanity that is used throughout, as Lena points out that the members of the likely ill-fated expedition must have something of a death wish to be embarking on a mission in which all previous volunteers have disappeared. As shown in the trailer, “Annihilation” is all about making something new, which, to humanity, is a horrifying change in biology. The film shows just how the Shimmer can affect its unwitting occupants, changing their minds and combining their DNA with all other beings in the area. The entire film is almost like a combination of an H.P. Lovecraft and an Algernon Blackwood story.

Scares are plentiful in this film, whether from a mutated bear, alligator or the personification of the Shimmer itself. Tension is high throughout “Annihilation,” as the incredibly alien setting creates a sense of unease for the viewer. The creatures definitely kept me the most on edge, though. As shown in the trailer, the Shimmer is home to countless mutated animals, many of which are carnivorous. The unknown is highlighted throughout the film, running parallel to the self-destruction element of the characters. Subtle shots are also used as metaphors, and some of the character development can be explained through these scenes.

I’m not surprised in any way that “Annihilation” has received some critical success. While this film could have explained the plot a bit more in depth, the movie is still phenomenally made and makes for an interesting-yet-creepy addition to the early 2018 movies. Regardless of whether you like horror or not, most viewers will be enthralled by the sheer alien aesthetic of the film. It also really shows just how powerful nature is, and in typical Blackwoodian fashion, just how easily nature can overpower human industry and civilization.

“Annihilation” is rated R, and I give it 4 out of 5 stars. 

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