It's not like us... it's unlike us. I don't know what it wants, or if it wants, but it'll grow until it encompasses everything. Our bodies and our minds will be fragmented into their smallest parts until not one part remains... Annihilation.

Annihilation ( 2018 )

  |   Aug. 9, 2018

 Annihilation never made it to cinemas outside the US. A poor test screening reception led to a dispute between director Alex Garland (backed by his producer Scott Rudin) and the studio, who proposed changes to make it more accessible. The result was that the director's version remained untouched, but the distribution rights did not. While Paramount provided the cinematic release in the US, Canada, and China, the rest of the world made do with a Netflix release on the small screen. It amounted to a statement by the studio that they don't think the movie, in its current state, could possibly be a success.

Natalie Portman leads the cast as a biologist who volunteers to enter the "shimmer", an ominously expanding electromagnetic field which  will soon grow to engulf cities. They are no closer to understanding its origin or nature. Her husband, an Army Special Forces soldier, is the only one to have made it out alive, but barely. He is not the same man that entered. He remembers nothing and his body has started to fail him. There's never any question of her retracing his steps. She is searching for answers, not just about her husband, but about herself. She forms part of a team of "military scientists", along with a pyschologist, a physicist, an anthropologist, and a paramedic, that make the journey deep into the unknown. They are all damaged in their own way. They wouldn't be there if they weren't.

With each step towards the centre of the shimmer - a lighthouse that has been struck by a meteor - their reality becomes more and more distorted. They encounter mutated creatures, an alligator with shark teeth, a bear who mimics human cries, different flowers growing from the same stem, deer with branches for antlers. The world of the shimmer is a world of danger, but it is also filled with colour and beauty.  It feels like a dream, everything within is utterly impossible.

The studio concern can be understood. Annihilation is unlike any science fiction movie we've seen in recent years, deriving its inspiration from classics like Tarkovsky's Stalker or Solaris. It's an immersive experience, superbly acted and combining stunning visuals with a haunting score. It's an exploration of human nature, and its propensity for self destruction. The movie offers no real conclusions to what exactly what happened, or what it all means. It simply invites the viewers to take their own message away. The shimmer changes everything and everyone that enters it, in body and mind. Annihilation is an experience not worth missing.