Scifi movies have long been a male domain. A place where few women dare tread. Now writer/director Alex Garland (Ex Machina) has come onto the picture and changed all that. His directorial debut (he had previously worked on films like Sunshine and 28 Days Later as a writer) featured a female humanoid A.I. and now his follow up film pretty much is all woman. Women trying to figure out how to survive in a world different from that which we live in.
Lena (Natalie Portman – Jackie, Black Swan) is now working as a teacher in a university. Previously she was a biologist and a soldier. Married to the man (Oscar Isaac – Inside Llewyn Davis, Star Wars: The Last Jedi) she loves, who is also a soldier, they have made a great life together. That is until he, Kane, goes off on a particularly covert mission. One which he does not come back from.
Life goes on for Lena. Or she tries to continue. Secretly she holds out hope that he will return. Time passes and hope fades. One day just a mysteriously as he disappeared, Kane returns. Only he is not the same man he was when he left. Wanting her husband back, Lena decides herself to go to the place Kane was. The Shimmer, a mysterious quarantine zone from which no one had previously returned.
Together with an elite team made up exclusively of women, Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh – Anomalisa, The Hateful Eight), Anya Thorensen (Gina Rodriguez – from television’s Jane the Virgin), Cass Shepherd (Tuva Novotny – Eat Pray Love, Borg McEnroe), and Josie Radek (Tessa Thompson – Creed, Thor: Ragnarok), Lena heads into the Shimmer. She does not divulge her story and reason for joining the team. Soon the women find something there which will, if left to continue spreading, put all human life in danger.
Scifi films rely on great visuals, strong if strange stories, loads of atmosphere, a story that will grab you, and scores that amplifies what is happening on screen. All these elements are a part of Garland’s Annihilation, but there is something else that acts as a fly in the ointment. The whole spiritual aspect of the film was a little too much and murky for my liking. Cerebral and existential. Not everyone’s cup of tea. Even if you do like Scifi. The premise had plenty of potential then the ending (very stereotypical and predictable) ruined all the good that had come before it.
What it does do well, as Alex Garland films tend to, is make you involved in the story. So much so that you will find your mind returning to what you have seen here. You will continue to think about Annihilation. Will certainly leave an impression and influence Scifi films to come.
-Part 1: Southern Beach
-Part 2: Area X
-Part 3: To the Lighthouse