For years now Hollywood has gotten back into the business of good smart (at least smart feeling) science fiction. Annihilation comes early in 2018. There is no doubt it is one to remember and may even be an early nominee for the Academy Awards.
A mysterious other-worldly object strikes a lighthouse in Florida. For three months the area around ground zero, known as Area X spreads slowly. The whole ordeal is hidden from the media and only top secret scientific and military expeditions approach.
One such military man, Kane (Oscar Isaac), goes missing in Area X. Lena (Natalie Portman), waits three years with no word from or about her husband. Lena is ex-military and now a scientist. She passes her time as a professor. She carries guilt of how her marriage is without resolution.
Kane comes back into Lena’s life, in a way. After Kane falls violently ill Lena finds herself Area X base. Lena meets Dr. Ventress, (Jennifer Jason Leigh). Ventress is the psychologist in charge of the base. Lena volunteers for the next expedition into the unknown.
Annihilation gets going when the crew of four strong, but flawed, women make their way into Area X. It’s established that time doesn’t operate the same inside. Nor does memory or biology. Lena and Ventress are joined on their journey by three other women. Each professionals in their own branch of science.
Rounding out the cast is Tuva Novotny, Gina Rodriguez, and Tessa Thompson. Each actress brings their own fully fleshed out character along on the journey. The characters are professionals but also a developed human beings. Each person on this journey is their for reasons both professional and personal. The strong script is light on exposition. Philosophies, fears, and desires come to life without the need to narrate them.
As the expedition progresses through Area X the audience’s journey amplifies in turn. The changes the foriegn entity makes to the American South are beautiful and terrifying. Glimpses of a world near ours, but not quite. Each change comes with a scientifically backed explanation. Every sense of discovery feels like a two edged blade. A sense of eerieness sits with the audience the entire movie.
Annihilation has some of the most astonishing visuals in any movie in a long time. The beauty is only matches by the terror. Annihilation also has a couple of the downright creepiest things to appear on the big screen. These aren’t cheap jump scares or a slasher level baddie. These are anomolies in nature that truly bend the mind.
As Lena pushes through the physical world her deeper story unfolds in flashback. The flashbacks parallel her journey in Area X and delve into the depressed woman’s mind. Her relationship with Kane comes to light through limited dialogue and powerful emotion. The climax of the film is a beautiful dance of dual meaning and complete awareness. As the dust settles the audience gets a great payoff in the story but are also left with questions in the best sense possible.
Annihilation is a movie released in the shadow of Black Panther. It’s a shame the studio didn’t see fit to release such a strong movie at a less competitive time. Despite the lack in box office draw, Annihilation will be high on your list of favorite movies of 2018.