‘Annihilation’ Review Roundup: Critics Dub One Of The Best Sci-Fi Movies Today
Annihilation, from director Alex Garland (Ex Machina, 28 Days Later), is based on Jeff VanderMeer‘s top-selling novels, and features Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez and Oscar Isaac. Portman stars as Lena, a biologist who must head into a quarantined zone known only as ‘Area X’ to determine what biochemical is slowly killing her husband Kane (Isaac). The alien thing they face is called the Shimmer, and we see Portman and her team of female biologists investigate.The film brilliantly gives viewers little information, so the story unfolds for us as it does to the characters.
As far as the resurgence of sci-fi films goes, Annihilation is an excellent entry into the genre. It received an impressive 89% on rottentomatoes.com, and critics are raving, especially in comparison to other similar genre hopefuls like Mute and The Cloverfield Paradox. The nearly all-female cast is a welcome site in science fiction, and the choice pays off.
ANNIHILATION REVIEW ROUNDUP
“Annihilation is not an easy film to discuss. It’s a movie that will have a different meaning to different viewers who are willing to engage with it. It’s about self-destruction, evolution, biology, co-dependence, and that which scares us the most—that we can no longer trust our own bodies. It’s meant to linger in your mind and haunt your dreams. In this recent wave of sci-fi films, it’s one of the best.”
–Brian Tallerico, rogerebert.com
“She’s joined by a team of equally damaged experts — all women, because all the all-male teams never came back — and together, they seek to unravel the mystery of a land where nature seems to have gone berserk at the intracellular level. This gives Garland a chance to go a little berserk himself with the visuals — you may have a hard time looking at molds and fungi for a while, even if you grant the unsettling appeal of his landscapes — while he slows the action to something approaching stately, presumably to give the meaning (or maybe the lack of it) time to sink in. The result is a film that is fascinating (in the sense of ‘bewitching’) but a bit hard to watch. 2018.”
–Matthew Lickona, San Diego Reader
“But if Garland must play by some of modern Hollywood’s rules, he abandons them in just about every other way. Annihilation arrives with an outré third act – near silent, and hypnotizing in its embrace of the abstract – but also a host of other delightfully unfamiliar elements. There’s the nearly all-female cast, for instance, whose makeup – Portman’s scientist, plus a psychologist (Jennifer Jason Leigh), an anthropologist (Tuva Novotny), a physicist (Tessa Thompson), and a paramedic (Gina Rodriguez) – and storylines pass the Bechdel Test with flying colours. There’s the back-and-forth narrative structure, edited with little audience hand-holding. There’s Portman’s fascinating lead performance, one that juggles wide-eyed optimism, heart-rending disbelief, and something more sinister. Coursing through all of this, though, is Garland’s genuine curiosity about the natural world, and what gives any of us the right to call ourselves a part of it. It’s a similar broad-strokes question that the filmmaker toyed with in his feature debut, 2014’s cynical Ex Machina, and though it’s clear he doesn’t have an answer (who would?), it’s a genuine thrill to watch him try to tease one out.”
–Barry Hertz, The Globe and Mail
“Annihilation is an emotional and mental tightrope, and Portman navigates it perfectly, grounding the film in the human reality it needs to follow its own path. Garland is then free to tell his story, and he proves himself once again to be one of science fiction’s most exciting, visionary talents. With Annihilation he’s given film fans and academics plenty to chew on, and this is a film that requires dissection and discussion. Sharpen up. Annihilation leaves a mark.”
–Adam Graham, The Detroit News
Check out Oscar Isaac’s uInterview.