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Annihilation

(Alex Garland)




Alex Garland is quickly carving a name out for himself in the sci/fi genre. Karl Urban leaked that Garland was basically the director of Dread, making Annihilation his third film (but we won't get into semantics here). There has been some controversy around this film when a story broke out that the studio wanted to change the ending after a poor test screening, citing it too intellectual and confusing for the general movie going public. Garland and producer Scott Rudin refused to change the ending since they had final cut. The result was a weird deal made with Netflix, where the film would receive a theatrical run in North America, but be released on Netflix in almost every other foreign market. Garland explained his disappointment with the decision as he believes the film should be seen on the big screen as he intended it to be.

Cellular biology professor and former soldier Lena is captured by shadowy government soldiers when her husband reappears after being MIA for more than a year. She has no idea where he was, but soon finds out that he was tasked with going into a place known as The Shimmer. All we know about The Shimmer is that once you go in, you never come out. Lena's husband is the only person to escape and he's in poor health. She's determined to find a reason why and hopes for a 'cure' to his ailments. So she goes in with a female team hoping to find answers.

Garland delivers a good sci/fi film with enough mystery, head scratching science and suspense to keep you entertained. This isn't Cameron's Aliens. We don't have a group of macho men and women going in guns blazin'. Here we have a group of damaged people, all with their own reasons to want to go into an unknown place that has a 99.99% chance of never coming back. The deeper these women go into The Shimmer, the weirder and more dangerous their surroundings become. Things work differently inside this place, even time. Garland asks you to pay attention to small details such as tattoos or glasses of water. He has the answers to a puzzle and he leaves breadcrumbs for the viewer. Is that why the studio was all upset with the ending? Garland spells nothing out for you, you do it for yourself.

The film isn't shy of showcasing some pretty grotesque images. One involves the women finding a video recording of the previous team doing an amateur autopsy of sorts, which might make your insides crawl *wink*. Other scenes involve encounters with these wild animals that no longer feel like they are part of our world. I could go deeper into the why, what, where, when and how of the story elements, but half the fun is discovering it yourself.

Garland uses a lot of CGI, some of it is weak, others are subtle. There is a constant shine of sorts in the background. It looks like gasoline mixed with water, it gives off a rainbow-ish vibe all over the place. The third act is going to be the thing that people will be divided over. For some reason I got a very similar vibe to The Fountain, despite this film bearing no resemblance to that movie in story or tone. It was just a feeling I got. I'd love to go into some conversations about what The Shimmer represents, this is a film that I believe is ripe for exploration in a forum.

Give it a chance.