By CAROLINA SANCHEZ
Very few movies leave audiences in awe. Classics like “The Godfather: Part One and Two” and “Citizen Cain” do it through innovative filmmaking. Odd movies like “2001: a Space Odyssey” do it through their quirkiness. Movies like “Annihilation” leave audiences speechless with their complex characters and thoughtful story. Director Alex Garland brings what was thought to be an unadaptable novel to the big screen.
Annihilation tells the story of Lena (Natalie Portman), a biologist looking for an explanation as to how her husband has returned to her, after a year of being thought dead, as a peculiar and then terminally ill man. This questions leads her to a lab on the border of what is called the Shimmer. There she meets Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh), the person in charge of the entire operation, Anya (Gina Rodriguez), a young paramedic from Chicago, Joise (Tessa Thompson), a recently graduated physicist and Cass (Tuva Novotny), a geologist. These five women then venture into the Shimmer in hopes of finding why everyone who was gone in before has not come out, with the exception of Lena’s husband (Oscar Isaac), and how to stop it from spreading.
Coming off the success of “Ex Machina,” Garland brings his artisanal directorial style to this film as well. His taste for the muted and grey tones sets a contrast to the Shimmer’s sparks of bright colors. He also scores this movie very similarly to his last project: acoustic folk guitar with hints of loud sci fi synthesizer sounds.
However, “Annihilation” felt different. While there was that constant unsettling feeling of watching characters that viewers are drawn to but do not like, a skill that Garland excels at, and there was also a sense of pride in watching this film; the same type of pride when people watch “Coco” and Guillermo Del Toro movies. It is that feeling of seeing people of color in movies, not as plot devices or as stereotypes, but as real, fleshed out, complex characters. For Guillermo Del Toro movies it is knowing a Mexican director is behind the camera and for this movie it was seeing a Latina woman as a complex character that did not play into the stereotypes of the “hot” and “spicy” latina women that are repeatedly seen in films. It was also having women as the main characters. Lena, the main character, was meant to not be likeable, but the audience is still interested in her story—something notoriously hard to do. The best part of this movie was the world inside that story looks like the real world. It is not shoving an agenda down the throat of the viewers while simultaneously being aware that the roles could have easily been switched and men could have been leading this movie.
Aside from my pride, “Annihilation” was an amazing movie. It had complex characters with a storyline that would make the biggest “District 9” fan happy, well developed characters that the audience was invested in, a few jump scares, a few scenes that nightmares are made of and a story about human nature all mixed in with beautiful cinematography while also following the dramatic principle of Chekhov’s gun down to the last detail.
Because this movie was released against one of the biggest films in history, “Black Panther,” it may not have a very long run. It has been compared “District 9,” “Cloverfield” and “Alien,” all of which have become top-tier sci-fi movies.