By Josie Clark, E23 Reporter

“Annihilation”, directed by Alex Garland, is a science fiction movie with horror elements. My feelings toward the film are quite complex. Some aspects I really enjoyed, while others I found disappointing. For instance, I enjoyed the concept and female cast but would have liked more fleshed-out characters. There were plenty of flashbacks to fill in the story and the main character’s background. They provided clarity but were so short that much of the plot still had to be put together through context or guessing.

Let’s talk about the plot… it’s all over the place. “Annihilation” begins at the end of the story, with an interview being conducted with a very distressed Natalie Portman. It then goes back. Well, technically to the middle to be exact. Portman’s character, Lena, is a lonely college professor whose husband disappeared after being deployed with the military. This setup is subtly explained through shots of old photos and Portman’s portrayal of a grieving wife.

Then, her husband suddenly shows up again, and he acts incredibly strange and distant. He suddenly has a seizure,  and on the way to the hospital, they are both kidnapped and Lena is sedated. This is a pretty serious turn of events and threw me for a loop. This is where the plot begins twisting like a pretzel and becomes hard to follow.

When she wakes up in a government facility, Lena finally learns where her husband has been all this time: inside a giant “shimmer” that is slowly eating the world. Oh, and he is the only one to ever make it out. In the facility, Lena meets the other main characters and learns their main goal: to know what the Shimmer is and stop it from spreading all over the world. I must ask though, how did a giant shimmering death trap not go viral in this day and age?

Visually, “Annihilation” is stunning. Without giving too much away, the Shimmer causes mutations to all living things inside it. The mutations were extraordinary and created an atmosphere that looked like something out of a painting. Even some of the horror elements were impossible to look away from.

The characters themselves had their ups and downs. From the beginning, it is made clear that most of Lena’s teammates don’t survive. So, it would be very easy to make characters that are simply props waiting to die. Instead, this movie definitely tried to make these characters matter for the brief time they’re alive. However, these characters were still underdeveloped. It was obvious these characters had complex backgrounds, and it would have been nice to learn about them. Explaining their stories through flashbacks or conversations would have made their deaths more effective and emotional. One thing I greatly appreciated was that the cast was mostly women. Even better, they were portrayed as strong, independent, and incredibly intelligent. Female leads usually lack these qualities in movies.

Overall, I give this movie a 7/10. It is a very interesting concept that is probably better on paper. With such a complicated plot, there is a lot to be desired. If there are sequels produced, I hope it provides some clarity to the unanswered questions.

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