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Movie Review: Annihilation
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Lena is a biologist and former Soldier whose husband disappeared during a secretive military mission a year ago. When he mysteriously returns, Lena is ecstatic until it becomes clear that he may not have come back fully himself. Lena is rapidly pulled into the shocking but intriguing world of the Southern Reach, a research complex set at the edge of a localized phenomenon known as Area X. Area X has been kept secret from the public, in part because no expedition sent into the area has ever returned. Lena suspects that the only path to saving her husband is to join the next expedition team, and cross the "shimmer" boundary into Area X to find out what lies on the other side. Lena joins the four woman team, which is led by a psychologist, and includes a paramedic, a physicist, and an anthropologist. Together the women venture through the shimmer to learn the secrets of Area X, and to see if they can come back out alive.

Annihilation is loosely based on the book of the same name written by Jeff VanderMeer in 2014 as the first novel in a trilogy. I say "loosely based on," and I do mean "loosely. The movie is recognizable as being related to the book, but it departs significantly from the Nebula award winner. I won't try to list all the ways in which the movie differs from the novel, but in broad terms, the character development is significantly different, as is the way in which the story deals with the primary puzzle of what caused the shimmer. In particular, the lead character is almost entirely different from her counterpart in the novels. Additionally, the conclusion is completely different, and seems to have been the result of trying to wrap up the story in a single movie, despite the fact that it took three books to dig deeper into the mystery, and even then the author didn't try to wrap things up in a neat package. Lastly, the movie takes on more of a horror feel than I got with the novel, relying more on scary monsters than the source material did.

If you leave the books aside, this is a solid but not spectacular sci-fi suspense/horror film. The pace is relatively slow, and the dialogue is sparse, but that allows the audience to focus on the environment and the developing psychological stress of the expedition team. Unfortunately, in diverting from the novel, the film turns into a fairly predictable story in which you wait for the next scary scene, count down as the team members die or disappear until only the heroine is left, and then watch as she wraps things up in a pretty blatantly foreshadowed manner. The film looks great. The director did a good job of creating some truly bizarre and beautiful aspects of the changing world inside Area X. The casting was also pretty good, and the actresses who make up the bulk of the cast (there are only 8 speaking roles in the film) do a fine job. Natalie Portman plays the lead, and Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, and Tuva Novotny all put in solid performances.

Annihilation has a fair amount of violence, gore, and some foul language. There are a couple of sexually suggestive scenes, but no nudity. It's definitely an adult movie.

Overall, if I hadn't read the book, I imagine that I would have found Annihilation to be a very good but not spectacular sci-fi film. Having read the book, I have a little disappointment, although the changes are understandable given the desire to turn the story into a single film. It actually left me feeling a bit the same as I did after Ex Machina, which was made by the same director. If you're a sci-fi fan, you'll want to go see this movie.

Slowguy

(insert pithy phrase here...)
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Re: Movie Review: Annihilation [slowguy] [ In reply to ]
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I saw this today with my daughter. There are definitely some great scenes in the movie but there are places where you are begging to fast forward through a plot that moves as slow as molasses. I witnessed 4 people leave the theater and had I not been with my daughter I may have joined them. I would recommend that you catch this movie for free on TV when it is available. Damn, should have seen the Black Panther...

"If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable." - Lucius Annaeus Seneca
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Re: Movie Review: Annihilation [jkca1] [ In reply to ]
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jkca1 wrote:
I saw this today with my daughter. There are definitely some great scenes in the movie but there are places where you are begging to fast forward through a plot that moves as slow as molasses. I witnessed 4 people leave the theater and had I not been with my daughter I may have joined them. I would recommend that you catch this movie for free on TV when it is available. Damn, should have seen the Black Panther...

The movie was noticeably quicker moving than the book. It's not an action film.

Slowguy

(insert pithy phrase here...)
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Re: Movie Review: Annihilation [slowguy] [ In reply to ]
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slowguy wrote:
jkca1 wrote:
I saw this today with my daughter. There are definitely some great scenes in the movie but there are places where you are begging to fast forward through a plot that moves as slow as molasses. I witnessed 4 people leave the theater and had I not been with my daughter I may have joined them. I would recommend that you catch this movie for free on TV when it is available. Damn, should have seen the Black Panther...


The movie was noticeably quicker moving than the book. It's not an action film.

Arrival was not an action film but it was much better. My expectations were a lot higher then what was delivered. I should have walked out when I saw that 75% of the seats were empty on a Saturday afternoon. Always a sure sign that a movie is going to suck. I may read the book just to fill in all the holes but if the book is slower.....Do they still sell Cliff Notes?

"If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable." - Lucius Annaeus Seneca
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Re: Movie Review: Annihilation [jkca1] [ In reply to ]
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jkca1 wrote:
slowguy wrote:
jkca1 wrote:
I saw this today with my daughter. There are definitely some great scenes in the movie but there are places where you are begging to fast forward through a plot that moves as slow as molasses. I witnessed 4 people leave the theater and had I not been with my daughter I may have joined them. I would recommend that you catch this movie for free on TV when it is available. Damn, should have seen the Black Panther...


The movie was noticeably quicker moving than the book. It's not an action film.


Arrival was not an action film but it was much better. My expectations were a lot higher then what was delivered. I should have walked out when I saw that 75% of the seats were empty on a Saturday afternoon. Always a sure sign that a movie is going to suck. I may read the book just to fill in all the holes but if the book is slower.....Do they still sell Cliff Notes?

The book doesn't fill in any holes from the movie. They are essentially different stories.

Slowguy

(insert pithy phrase here...)
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Re: Movie Review: Annihilation [slowguy] [ In reply to ]
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Thank you. I have not read the books but I completely agree. I found the film underwhelming, the same way "Ex-Machina" was. Why everyone says Alex Garland's movies are amazing are beyond me. Yes, visually they look good but the story wasn't original and execution wasn't exactly smooth. Some flashbacks I found unnecessary as well looking at finding blurry video footage like the "Blair Witch" was ridiculous. The guys were losing their minds but could film, take out the video card(why?) and put it into a ziploc bag? They couldn't just write on a piece of paper? "We're all going crazy"? Jonathan Glazer's "Under the Skin" was way more surreal and memorable.
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Re: Movie Review: Annihilation [slowguy] [ In reply to ]
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Strangely, outside the US it is not even getting cinema release - straight to Netflix - yet it is getting rave reviews.
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