Review: Annihilation

Avoiding all the drama surrounding this films release (F**k you Paramount), Alex Garland’s follow up to ‘Ex Machina’ has annihilated all the other Netflix films out there. Now, while the bar isn’t set to high (‘The Cloverfield Paradox’ most recently dissapointed), ‘Annihilation’ is a future sci-fi classic that will be held in the same regard as ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ in years to come. It is one of the most mesmerising and stunningly beautiful films to come out for ages (Like it was meant for the big screen…) and also tackles self destruction and more importantly, the state of mind within all humans. Simply put, this is as good as sci-fi gets.

‘Annihilation’ is a future sci-fi classic that will be held in the same regard as ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ in years to come.  

We follow Lena (Natalie Portman) who signs up for an expedition into an unknown place where the laws of nature do not apply in search of answers for her missing husband (Oscar Isaac). As you’d expect, things happen that aren’t too convenient, but what makes it stand out is how awe inspiring everything is. The production design is second to none, crafting a world that feels vibrant and full of life while also making us uncomfortable for long periods of time. Alongside this, the visuals effects of the mysterious Shimmer are absolutely breathtaking. Never feeling overused or overbearing, as the run time progresses on, it becomes such a staple on the film you begin to forget how amazing they truly are. One thing’s for sure, they deserved better than my living room TV.

Of course, visuals without anything to back them up end up being something like ‘Transformers’. Luckily, the entire cast are all quite perfect. Jennifer Jason Leigh continues her recent resurgence as then emotionally deprived Dr Ventress who leads the team. Tessa Thompson gives easily her best performance ever as Josie Radek. I mentioned before that her charm never seems to be too far away from every role she picks. Well, ignore me, because Radek is entirely charmless, but also insanely likeable. She’s just an empty shell dealing with too much. She seems like a character that any other film would’ve made forgettable and underused, yet she’s anything but that in ‘Annihilation’. Rounding out the team is Anya Thorenson (Gina Rodriguez) and Cass Sheppard (Tova Novotny), both with almost the same amount of depth of backstory than the others. What was so refreshing about this film is we had all the tropes within the group (Main character, leader, smart one, funny one etc) but we didn’t have “the female one”. Instead, all of the group were women and it was a step in the right direction. Since Ripley first entered our lives years ago, women haven’t fared to well within the sci-fi genre. ‘Annihilation’ could’ve been changed from its novel to add in more male characters, but it’s great to see that didn’t happen. It’s hopefully a sign of things to come for the future of the genre.

Simply put, this is as good as sci-fi gets.  

Like the best sci-fi films before it, ‘Annihilation’s’ script is unique and groundbreaking. The world created within is one of beauty and heartbreak. Each character is flawed, especially Lena, but the film never points the finger at them. Instead, it only emphasises how well drawn out each character is. The non-linear structure has been used many times, but by flitting between the past, present and future, we get an insight into why everyone and everything is the way it is. At times, it’s not clear if what is happening has actually happened or is just an illusion of the Shimmer. The story doesn’t get spelt out for audiences, very much in vein of ‘Arrival’ or ‘Inception’. Basically, this isn’t a film you can casually watch. But, by giving it your full attention, you’ll be rewarded with something magnificent. The final act especially stands out as something you’ll never forget.

‘Annihilation’ is really special. It pushes boundaries and turns the sci-fi genre on its head when it seemed that wasn’t still possible  

‘Annihilation’ is really special. It pushes boundaries and turns the sci-fi genre on its head when it seemed that wasn’t still possible. People will say ‘Arrival’ is the most influential sci-fi film of this decade, but this has it pipped at the finish line for me. Stunning performances from all involved, a story that is innovative and mind-blowing alongside the best visuals you’ll probably see all year, ‘Annihilation’ is spectacular. That’s what makes the decision to ship it off to Netflix over here so frustrating. Paramount can say whatever excuse they want, but like ‘Inception’ and ‘Arrival’ proved, audiences can handle films that are “smart”. Yes, it’s box office taking in USA weren’t spectacular, but UK audiences tend to respond more positively to sci-fi. Take ‘Blade Runner 2049’, it didn’t do well in the States but, despite it being labelled as a bomb, actually took a decent amount of revenue in the UK. Let’s be honest, if someone like Tom Cruise or Chris Hemsworth was leading this film, it would have been shipped over to cinemas despite it being “too weird”. We may have moved forward by having an all female cast, but it’s two steps backward by not having the confidence to release it in cinemas.

10/10

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