One of the titles I was most looking forward to checking out this month, 'Annihilation' actually managed to give me a bit more than I was looking for. Despite perhaps a bit of a sluggish beginning, this film does touch on a lot of intriguing and frightening possibilities once things manage to get rolling.
Some years ago, we are show than a small meteor strikes a lighthouse, creating a very strange, very beautiful bubble that seems to keep expanding. Soldiers and other experts have been sent in to check it out, but none have yet come back alive. This time around, it's up to a group of female scientists to enter the bubble, which they call the "Shimmer", collect data, and get to the lighthouse where it all begain to figure out exactly what it is they're dealing with. However, once inside the Shimmer, the group discovers strange mutations in the wildlife that go from absolutely breathtaking plant life to creatures and other very strange situations that could fuel your nightmares for weeks to come.
The scariest part of the movie - it manages to deliver on everything scary being a very real scientific possibility, despite knowing how impossible it all is according to our own minds. While still remaining a sci-fi fantasy thriller, it does make one think. It kinda reminded me of 'Prometheus' in that sense, except this time around there will be no disappointment at not seeing any particular creatures. The creatures we do see here are very, very few, but the ideas the film is trying to get across come with them as necessary. Some are mutations of beauty, and some are just plain terrifying.
I talk a lot about the movie being scary, and a lot of other critics will tell you that the fear factor is delivered very well here, but I kinda meet it in the middle. The whole deep inner core of this movie is pretty scary in that scientific mind set, and one of these creatures I found to be very unreal, but totally original and frightening in what it is. But that's about it. A lot of the on-the-surface scares are actually few and far between. for the most part, it's more of a disturbing movie that you mull over after it's done than it is a straight up jump scare horror flick.
As far as performances go, it was a tough call. You can find yourself routing for our hero, Lena (Natalie Portman), but I would honestly consider the rest of the group almost too expendable. You get a bit of a brief history on who they are, and there's a tiny bit of development here and there, but if anyone gets killed off you don't necessarily care that they're gone. The interest is almost more in how they go. This particularly applies to the leader of this pack, Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh), whose overall character is extremely dry, uninteresting, and despite what she says it feels like she doesn't wanna be there. It was almost like watching Leigh performing completely uninterested, and just saying what the script asked her to say. Unfortunately for an otherwise fine actress, this didn't really come across as acting at all. I mean, I guess she was trying to make her character the way she was supposed to be, but it sadly kinda took me out of it all. Meanwhile Portman is pretty much acting her ass off here. It was an odd contrast.
However, the overall writing and concepts held within this movie impressed me enough that Leigh's performance didn't completely take me out of things. I can say with honesty that I still managed to leave the theater well-entertained, give it credit for doing something original, and I'm still kinda pondering the film's ending, which IS a cliffhanger that might catch one off guard. This wasn't spectacular, but as far as 2018 goes, it's one of the better ones I've seen so far. It's interesting that winter doesn't seem to be that dumping ground it once was.
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