I know it’s been awhile since Alex Garland’s Annihilation came out in theaters, but a friend and I decided to watch it only recently. To be honest, at first I didn’t have any plans to see the movie myself. I hadn’t seen the trailer beforehand and I had no clue as to what the movie would be about. All I knew was that the YouTube thumbnail for the trailer creeped me out, since it had a large wolf-like creature with big teeth standing right behind a distressed-looking Natalie Portman. My initial thought was that this would be a horror movie, and I don’t do horror movies.
I’m the type of person that gets scared pretty easily so, not surprisingly, I was freaked out by the end of Annihilation. The movie is about a former U.S. army soldier and cellular biology professor named Lena, portrayed by Natalie Portman, who is sent to explore and research The Shimmer, a mysterious region inhabited by continuously mutating organisms. Almost everyone who has gone into The Shimmer in the past has never returned, except for Lena’s husband, Kane, portrayed by Oscar Isaac, who became very ill shortly after. To learn more about what happened to her husband during his expedition, Lena decides to go into The Shimmer with four other female researchers. During their time in the area, they encounter various mutated versions of animals and plants. As they look for a way out, they slowly begin to realize that The Shimmer causes anything and everything to quickly mutate, including themselves.
Something that definitely stood out to me when I was watching the movie was the talent of the cast. The main cast was all female, including Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, and Tuva Novotny. Each actress brought a unique personality to their character, which made watching all their interactions on screen even more interesting. What I especially found entertaining was Gina Rodriguez's performance as Anya, a paramedic who also takes part in the expedition into The Shimmer. Her character is introduced as very quirky, talkative, and likable. However, midway into the movie, as The Shimmer has its full effect on the characters, it is Anya who especially becomes delirious and dangerous to the rest of the group. The change in my perspective towards Rodriguez's character was surprising and felt very sudden. Overall, all the actresses, and especially Rodriguez, portrayed their characters very well in the movie.
Another thing that I enjoyed about the movie was the world that was created for The Shimmer. It was so bizarre and yet so intriguing. Everything was made to look like a dream, with sceneries too good to be true but also with many dark places of the unknown. Both the film characters and I, as the viewer, certainly had no expectations while visually exploring The Shimmer, and that’s mainly what made my experience watching the film so nerve-wracking and freakish. The Shimmer’s mimicry of human life and nature was, like most things in the movie, both beautiful and disturbing. The colors and depictions of all the wildlife were alluring, while I found the mannerisms of The Shimmer’s alien-like humans, as well as its effects on the main characters to be very creepy.
It’s been a long time since I had seen a movie that left me feeling both disturbed (in a somewhat good way) and curious; the last time was when I was about five and I saw Steven Spielberg’s A.I Artificial Intelligence. After all those years, I never forgot about that movie, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget about Annihilation either. Alex Garland’s film will surely leave you with many questions, both film-related and personal. It’s a movie that makes viewers think about what exists outside of our lives and worlds. If you’re interested in films like this one, I definitely recommend seeing it.