In Brief: Horror? Yes. Science fiction? Yes but sort of. Weird? Definitely.
Natalie Portman is Lena and Oscar Isaac is Kane. They’re married. He’s military. She’s a biologist and ex-military. A comet hits a lighthouse and an outer worldly curtain called the Shimmer descends. It starts rewriting the DNA and the cellular structure of all life inside.
The Shimmer is expanding and scientists studying the phenomenon believe it will eventually take over the world. They can see the outside of the Shimmer but nothing inside and nothing inside can get out. Explorers — including Lena’s hubby — go in but they never come out.
Then after being nowhere for a year — and Lena assumes, dead — a very confused Kane reappears.
When Lena tries to get him to the hospital military types grab them both. That gets her involved in the conundrum facing scientists studying the Shimmer, Kane’s dilemma and that facing the human race.
Lena and other female scientists enter the Shimmer. Why just women? Several explorations using macho guys failed so why not? Maybe women can survive where men don’t.
Or at least all men but Kyle.
Inside they find the comet has created beautiful floral and fauna, and expected and not-so-surprising dangerous creatures to knock off characters in their order of importance to the plot. It is also a chance for writer/director Alex Garland and his special effects gurus to do their thing.
And they do it pretty well.
Garland wrote and directed the excellent sci-fi piece Ex Machina in 2014 and penned Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later … and Sunshine, and the brilliant and very dark Never Let Me Go.
Not his best effort, Annihilation is based from a popular novel by Jeff VanderMeer. I didn’t read the book but Garland’s adaptation is mostly horror with a sprinkle of science fiction thrown in for good measure. Or is it a dark piece of science fiction with a dash of horror?
Take your pick. No matter where you land on Annihilation, we can all agree it is a really weird movie.
Like he did with Ex Machina, Garland’s heavily borrows themes from other, older and better films. He does a great job of keeping the story moving forward and you won’t be bored. No complaints with the effects.They are fabulous. So is the acting.
However, by the climax Garland’s movie is headed downhill. Much of the decline lies with the basic outline of VanderMeer’s novel. It is a concept that entices you and then hooks you. Ultimately there is just nowhere for this story to go that doesn’t seem like it is somewhere you’ve been before.
Director: Alex Garland
Stars: Natalie Portman, Oscar Isaac, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tuva Novotny, Tessa Thompson, Benedict Wong
Rated R for mature themes, violence, blood and gore, language, all the usuals accompanying a horror/sci-fi flick. This one isn’t great but it’s not bad and gets a 3 on the Average Joe Movie 0 to 5 scale.
5 to 4 1/2: Must see on the big screen.
4 to 3 1/2: Good film, see it if it’s your type of movie.
3 to 2 1/2: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 to 1: Don’t bother.
0:Speaks for itself.
Gary Wolcott has been a movie consultant for KXL since 2014. A lifelong fan of film, he’s been a film critic in radio, television and newspaper for 25-years. Wolcott catches a couple of hundred movies a year and he sees a great many of them so you don’t have to.
Got a movie suggestion or comment? Click here to email him.