Simply put, I was not impressed. Full Disclosure: I have not read the book, Annihilation, by Jeff VanderMeer and I knew nothing about the Southern Reach Trilogy before this review. With that said, I can’t imagine this film adaptation did the book any justice.
The film, Annihilation, is directed by Alex Garland. His previous works in this genre of sci-fi thriller include Ex Machina and 28 Days Later, two films I think fairly highly of. Also, the film stars Natalie Portman, Oscar Isaac, and Jennifer Jason Leigh, just to name a few of the award-winning cast. And, with a lengthy three year production process that started in 2015, I really wonder why this movie failed.
The story follows four women on an expedition into a quarantined zone off the coast of Florida that was hit by an extraterrestrial meteor, of sorts, that created its own growing atmosphere referred to as “The Shimmer” where anything that enters, doesn’t come out. Their mission as the 12th expedition is to collect data and samples from the source, a lighthouse off the coast, and return.
Although Natalie Portman’s character, Lena, is the main character, the leader of the group is Dr. Ventress played by Jennifer Jason Leigh. Leigh’s performance seemed off, like she could never really get into character. It was as if you could tell she was acting, instead of enveloping along with the story. Same could be said for the supporting roles, seemingly reflective of the monotonous script, which missed the mark, constantly causing you to be drawn from the story itself.
The visual effects were presented well, but became repetitive and somewhat cheesy when it came to some of the forest settings. Also, the few true suspense scenes found that same pattern, repetitive and cheesy.
I believe I dislike the movie so deeply, because it delivered so much potential. The actual concept and details were all there with some really technical biological background; it all just fell flat.
Like I said, this film is based on the first book of a trilogy, and it was left on a cliffhanger as if they will follow through with another film, so maybe we will see redemption.
For now, I’d say go read the book.