Enjoy this Monday with Mildred!
Everyone dies but the star of the film. Is it irritating for me to tell you that right up front? Yes it is. Even more irritating is seeing it in the first twenty seconds of the film. Writers and directors will do this occasionally, and it’s super annoying every time. The viewer ends up waiting for the inevitable death of the other characters, not really giving them a chance to be surprised or more importantly, to root for a character before they’re horribly killed. A story is more powerful if you don’t know how it ends right up front.
And the kills are horrible for the most part here. Annihilation is part 70s slasher, part 80s mystical trippy dream, part 90s apocalyptic alien invasion, with a modern feminist slant where the women take charge and successfully take on the invaders. Oh, wait. On the one hand they do give a bunch of nerd scientist women a heavy pack of gear, boots and a big gun and send them into The Shimmer, the growing piece of alien invaded New England coastline. On the other hand, they kill all but one of them. Is that progress? It could make an interesting debate.
The Shimmer is produced from a comet punching a hole through a lighthouse and hanging out for the tourist season. From that spot a shimmery barrier grows, and no one who steps into it comes back. Inside is a gorgeously rendered vision of what an alien mind would do with dicing and splicing Earth DNA, and how weirdly gorgeous and utterly dangerous to human life that would be. Why the native flora and fauna never seemed to suffer like the humans was never answered, or even really asked.
There are a lot of flashbacks and talking and some sex scenes, but it’s not until the film is nearly half over that the all girl team goes on what they should expect to be a suicide mission. Were they nervous? Did their hands shake? Did they fret about anything? Not really, and it made no sense. There was a bit of horrified reactions to the horrible things they found, and a bit of awe at some of the beautiful things they found. I think the biggest visible upset was over the state of their food stores. The brainiac women tend to do the kinds of stupid things characters do in slasher film, like setting up a perimeter watch station with floodlights shining inside of it. Night vision much?
Sure, there is some depth and subtlety to the story. Events in The Shimmer mirror some events in the normal world. In physics, the definition of pair annihilation is the process in which a particle and antiparticle unite, annihilate each other, and produce one or more photons, which is a mirror of what happens inside The Shimmer. Each of the women who dies does so in a reverse of their personality or profession. That didn’t even occur to me until a day after I watched the film.
There are some stunning images and believable action sequences, once they get to them, and the horrific parts are beautifully horrible. The music tended toward annoyingly folksy and the sound was so uneven I had to watch with a remote in hand. I swear they briefly walked through the Aliens set at one point and even said that out loud while watching. Yes, I got an amused, “Geek!” thrown at me, and I’m not sure if it was an homage or a coincidence.
If you don’t mind trippy sf apocalypse films featuring gorgeous, smart, brave women in pickle suits then see this movie. It has one of the best last lines of any film I’ve ever seen, and the imagery is sometimes amazing. My biggest problem is with how the director handled the talent, giving them a weird expressionless attitude for what they were going through.
Annihilation (2018) – Official Trailer – Paramount Pictures
CFR – In Addition – I really LIKED this movie!