“Like God made a mistake. Left the hall lights on”Review by Lewis Goodall
Yum yum yum yum yum, I love a good set design. Nothing beats a scene then having actors standing in the middle of a landscape that easy on the eyes. Take the Wizard of Oz for example, a proper yum looking film that one. So take the sort of same scenery and landscape of the wizard of oz, make it look more overgrown and swampy, add some more flowers and deer without faces and boom, you have ‘Annihilation’. Now I have expressed what i love about this film, let’s move on to what i found mleh.
Before doing so I better actually explain what the film is about. Annihilation is the tale of earth slowly being consumed by an ever growing zone which contains an unknown force that meddles with ever cell on the inside. The military get in a biologist to examine further into this zone to try and uncover what is happening and why. The biologist and 4 other women set out on a mission to the heart of this area to find the source and put a stop to it.
I mentioned the set design in the beginning because that it what drew me to this film. Seeing some of the art coming out from it that people made, general screenshots and quite more than everything else the thumbnail on Netflix is what caught my eye. I’m a sucker for a film with dark, creative scenery, hence why I’m such a fan of John Carpenters ‘The Thing’, so seeing everything going on with Annihilation I knew my eyes were in for a treat. Then I saw that Natalie Portman was in it so my eyes were in for even more of a treat.
Natalie plays the biologist, Lena. She has been out of the military for 7 years to pursue biology. She met her husband in the military when he is reported to go on a mission to which he didn’t return…. that is until she paints her bedroom and he rocks up to the house out of nowhere! He’s back but acting strange and secretive about where he’s been for the past 12 months. The military catch up to him and in turn grab Lena to assist with the mission that her husband had been so secret about. The mission consists of enter a force field like phenomena that is slower growing in size. All they know about this place is that people enter and no one returns, they’ve either been killed or gone insane and killed each other. Naturally with results proving that everyone who steps in their dies, they then send Lena in there with her biology background to see if it can offer so sort of answer to what is happening.
The story is pretty straight forward. Something weird is happening, send in the expert and sort it out. The story is fine but there’s added side stories that add nothing to the story and just over complicate the whole experience. They seem very unnecessary when the main story is fine and works well enough, there is no need to add spices that don’t add to the dish. So the main plot follows along these 5 women on this journey into the unknown as they discover what this entity is causing to everything on the inside. On the inside all cells are refracted and merge and split in all different types of ways so that different species of flowers grow on the same branch and animals have characteristics from different animals. The further they enter the more abnormal things become. The whole essence of what is happening is related to a cancer like way of spreading. In the beginning Lena is teaching students about cancer, and then compares the overgrown nature in the zone to cancer. Sort of a weird detail to add but I’m sure it added to the story in a way that I didn’t notice but the way it came across which is actually my biggest Issue with the film is the script.
I realised I forgot to talk about the side stories so I promise I’ll get back to that. So with the script, it’s such a lazy script. Her making the comparison to it being cancer is meant to be this gasp moment I’m sure but it’s so lazily written in that it’s just embarrassing. Details like that I feel shouldn’t be mentioned, it’s meant to be implied because when it’s so blatant and obvious like that it’s like treating the audience like an idiot and its just lazy. It’s the equivalent of people explicitly saying something like “look Kyle, you’re my brother, you need to step up and get mum a present”. You know, stuff like that is just super unnatural and lazy to try and get across information in the easiest way, and that’s how I felt the whole script was like during this film, it was all a bit lazy and mleh.
So finally the side stories, I guess I might be going into detail here so spoilers I guess, skip to the next chapter if you don’t want this spoilt. Gone?? Cool. So there is a sideline of Lena having an affair on her husband with a colleague. It is totally unneeded as it adds absolutely nothing to the story at all. The other characters we follow all have backstories but again, they are put in there but they don’t really add anything at all, I’m listening to their stories and I’m just uninterested, at the end of the film they don’t really get addressed or anything so it felt a bit like filler. Just stick to the one premise, adding to much to a film is just confusing, I guess that’s why they added the super easy script to try and balance the two naff aspects out.
The action in this film is also laughable, I wont slag this film off much more but yeah there were a couple of moments that are meant to be tense and have me in the edge of my seat but instead I was reminding it because I couldn’t believe a jump scare could be so bad. All these pieces together are a shame because they taint what could’ve been an incredible film because the cinematography and imagery was insanely powerful and I loved all of it. One particular scene where the plants a re infused with human cells so they grow in the shape of humans and having tree people darted around the shop was just beautiful. It was all beautiful to look at. It’s all like a pastel version of the scenery In ‘Last of Us’.
Overall, this is a film that annoyed me because it has such potential to be incredible but Is let down in terms of writing, most of it is illogical and is poorly worked into the main story. The writer needs to be sat down in front of ‘Black Swan’ and shown how to properly write a film and how to get Natalie Portman to do a sex scene that make sense to the story. Aesthetically, this film is gorgeous and I cannot fault it at all, I did enjoy the film, I’m not saying I didn’t but I felt that looking at it from a critical eye then its definitely mleh, a beautiful mleh.