Annihilation is a strange, head-scratching film for those longing for another Arrival or Sunshine. Alex Garland (who actually wrote Sunshine) adapted the first of Jeff VanDermeer’s novels into the film starring Natalie Portman, Oscar Isaac, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Gina Rodriguez. Investigating a mysterious asteroid’s impact on the Florida Coast, Portman’s cellular bio professor/ex-Army soldier Lena serves as our guide on a journey of grief, horror, and self-discovery.
When Lena’s long-lost husband (Isaac) returns after a mission to the site of the asteroid crash, now known as The Shimmer, Lena joins a team of female explorers to investigate the Shimmer and find out why only her husband came back. Unfortunately, in the Shimmer, they’re soon wrestling with their own interior and exterior demons – like an alligator/shark and a wild bear. They see footage of the previous team’s struggles and apparent decent into madness, and begin to experience it on their own.
While Garland’s previous work, Ex Machina, is its own bit of mental exploration of violence and humanity, Annihilation comes across like Predator meets The Happening. It’s biological and mental and horrific and psychological all at the same time. Does it make complete sense? Maybe not. But is it a wild ride through the ways we justify and confront and grieve and avoid… the human experience? Absolutely.
Special features on the Paramount Blu-ray include an hour’s worth of exploration into the story origins (“Refractions”), casting (“For Those That Follow”), the filming itself on location (“Shimmer”), and the special effects (“Vanished into Havoc”).