FlixChatter Review – ANNIHILATION (2018)

Directed By: Alex Garland
Written By: Alex Garland
Runtime: 1h 55min

Annihilation, based on the book trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer, follows biologist Lena (Natalie Portman) join a group made up of an anthropologist, a psychologist, a surveyor, and a linguist to investigate mysterious environment after her husband Kane (Oscar Isaac) returns from an unexplained year-long disappearance. Lena, along with Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh), Anya (Gina Rodriguez), Cass (Tuva Novotny), and Josie (Tessa Thompson) soon learn that the laws of nature don’t apply in this strange and dangerous location.

This movie made me want to read the books immediately, because the screenplay is so well-written, and I can only imagine how fantastic the source material must be. It’s such an imaginative and suspenseful story. It’s tense and unpredictable without feeling messy. I especially like that it’s a female-led sci-fi movie, which is rare. It’s not the focus; it’s commented on once toward the beginning of the film, but otherwise the characters are interesting and well-developed without being defined by their gender. The fact that they’re portrayed by phenomenal actors makes it even better. The group has amazing chemistry, and they all give strong performances, although Gina Rodriguez as Anya is definitely the stand-out; she goes from likable to terrifying to heartbreaking seamlessly.

This film is visually stunning as well. The CGI is incredibly detailed, but not overused to the point of being over-the-top. The designs are beautiful, unsettling, and in some cases, horrifying. Even the more mundane scenes are beautifully shot; there’s a moment with a close-up of Lena holding Kain’s hand, filmed through a glass of water distorting the image, that is so subtle but so effective.

That said, it’s not a perfect film. There’s a subplot about Lena cheating on Kane with her colleague, Daniel (David Gyasi) that doesn’t really have any effect on the overall plot and doesn’t fit the movie’s tone. Maybe it’s more important in the books, but it doesn’t feel necessary in the movie, and the time wasted on it could have been better used developing the alien nature the group is exploring.

I was also a little distracted by how many times different characters exclaimed over how impossible everything in this alien area is. I understand expressing surprise and initial disbelief, but they are so adamant about things being impossible that it’s kind of ridiculous. I wanted to yell “You just saw a mutant crocodile attack your friend in a fairy garden swamp, all surrounded by a shiny bubble of science fiction! Maybe accept that everything you’ve learned until this point doesn’t apply anymore!” Maybe I’m being nitpicky, though.

Overall, though, Annihilation is excellent. It’s beautiful, it’s frightening, it’s brilliantly acted, and if the two-hour movie is that good, I can only imagine how amazing the story is when it’s fleshed out over three books. Definitely check this out.


Have you seen ‘Annihilation’? Well, what did you think? 

14 thoughts on “FlixChatter Review – ANNIHILATION (2018)

  1. I loved the book even more than the movie, but the movie does hold up very well. The sideplot of the affair is not in the book at all. The structure is a lot different too but the same themes are discussed

    1. I’m so glad the movie holds up well to the books! I obviously enjoyed it as a stand-alone film, but I’m glad it’s a good adaptation as well, although apparently the affair sideplot was totally unnecessary. I really want to read the books now!

      1. Just saw it earlier tonight and thought it’s great! I agree about the affair subplot, not sure why Garland even included it in the final film. It should’ve been left in the cutting room floor. Definitely one of the most frightening sci-fi films I’ve seen in a long time.

        1. I’m so glad you enjoyed it! It really was wonderfully frightening. Thank goodness I’m not the only one who thought the affair subplot was pointless. 😀

  2. Hey Laura, I’m glad you’re able to go to this! I try to avoid reading about the plot as I like mystery sci-fi like this one and I’m a big fan of Alex Garland’s films in the past. Glad to see a mostly-female cast in a sci-fi too, it’s still rare but certainly a welcome sight!

  3. All the critics are saying that this is one movie which deserves to be seen on the big screen, unfortunately because I live in India that won’t be possible. Still, I’ll catch it on Netflix. It sounds wonderful and your review got me even more pumped for it!

    1. That’s such a bummer it doesn’t get a theatrical release in India! It’s a fantastic movie, though, so I’m sure you’ll enjoy it just as much on Netflix. 🙂

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