Movie Review - Annihilation
There is even a vibe akin to something like The Lost City of Z (2016), except the explorers or the people on the expedition are instead all women and there is this supernatural and even alien invasion aspect to it. The alien invasion though isn't like Independence Day (1996). It's more on the level of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) or Slither (2006) where the invasion is more genetic and on a cellular level that ultimately puts it just as much into the body-horror genre as it is this monster movie. Unfortunately, none of the body-horror stuff makes sense or at least none of it is consistent from person-to-person. There is some kind of pattern, but the connections in that pattern aren't obvious. It all feels like an excuse for psychedelic and trippy images, the likes of which haven't been seen since Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).
It has to be pointed out that Portman was in the Star Wars prequels and Isaac is featured in the current Star Wars sequels, so now these two play a married couple. Isaac doesn't get to bring any of the charm that he's brought in the Star Wars films or even in Ex Machina in which he co-starred. Here, Isaac is more or less just a sexy prop, dangled like a gorgeous carrot for Portman's character to chase after. This is mainly Portman's film, as we watch her grief and strength.
Initially, she's reminiscent of Amy Adams' character in Arrival (2016), except Portman's character isn't as passive. Adams' character is also strong but not as aggressive or as masculine as Portman's character. This is perhaps because Lena was in the army and you believe she was a soldier. Like Adams' character, Lena is a scientist, but her goal isn't to learn or communicate with whatever alien life is there. Studying it is part of her goal, but only in as much as a soldier needs to study his enemy in order to defeat it.
There is a subplot involving Lena having an affair that was unneeded and didn't pay off. The way the movie ends, it's meant to signify that Garland wanted this movie ultimately to be about the relationship between Lena and Kane. As such, I understand why Lena's affair would be an interesting turn to take, but it doesn't really comment on their relationship or say anything about it by the end.
Like Ex Machina, this movie ends with the introduction of a new life. In Ex Machina, that new life is mechanical or robotic in nature. Here, the new life is cellular and biological, as well as extraterrestrial. In Ex Machina, that new life is designed, which could be interpreted as a horrifying creation myth. Here, the new life might not be designed but is more random, which would make this movie more a horror-film take on the Big Bang Theory.
Gina Rodriguez (Deepwater Horizon and Jane the Virgin) co-stars as Anya, a paramedic who becomes the most paranoid member of the team. Tessa Thompson (Thor: Ragnarok and Creed) also co-stars as Josie, the physicist who provides a lot of the exposition and who becomes Poison Ivy by the end. They give good performances with Rodriguez being the most stand out. She's also at the center of a chilling scene that's probably the scariest thing I've seen in a year.
Rated R for violence, bloody images, language and some sexuality.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 55 mins.