Annihilation

The 479th film I have seen in theaters…

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Natalie Portman versus Alien DNA refracting meteorite! Also a Skull-faced Bear/Parrot! Honestly, it is very good.

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A meteorite lands at a lighthouse and a strange bubble forms around it, and grows to encompass several miles of swamp land. Military teams are sent in to investigate, but never return, save one man – Kane. He shows up at home after being missing a year and gets sick. The military swoops in and nabs Kane and his wife Lena,  a professor of biology. She learns of “The Shimmer” and volunteers to go inside, to find a cure for her husband. Things go south from there as the Shimmer begins to mutate everything inside.

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As she is aught to do, Natalie Portman kills it in this leading role. She is intelligent, strong, and incredibly flawed as a person. A well rounded character which she plays excellently. Never mind this being a great female character, it was a great character. Period.

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Jennifer Jason Leigh is Dr Ventress (what a supervillain name lol) the leader of the team. She is determined to fight whatever is at the center of the shimmer, no matter the cost. She’s been on a tear lately, taking some great roles. While her work in smaller, independent productions are nice, I am happy to see her back in mainstream films.

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Gina Rodriguez is great as Anya, a paramedic that begins to come unglued as the shimmer breaks down their bodies and minds. She really ratcheted up the tension.

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Tessa Thompson, whom I loved as Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok, is Josie the physics graduate. She is the one that unlocks the secret of how the Shimmer is mutating life inside the bubble, and is definitely in touch with nature. That last line is funnier once you see the movie.

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Poor Tuva Novotny is Sheppard, monster chow. lol. She is a geologist on the team, but never really uses those skills. She has a good scene on the row boats, but is never fully utilized by the film.

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Poe Dameron is here to save the day!!! Not really, lol. Padme takes center stage here as Oscar Isaac is Kane, the husband in distress. We get a few nice glimpses of Kane in flashbacks, and a few video tapes he left behind inside the Shimmer. This is the ladies’ show though, not his. He still gives us a top notch performance, as I’ve yet to see him phone it in.

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The scientist interrogating Lena after the event is played by Benedict Wong. This is a really minor role, but I like Wong and must mention his presence.

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This is a really good movie. It is stunning to watch, with amazing cinematography by Rob Hardy. Alex Garland who Directed and adapted the novels for the screen did an excellent job crafting the story and getting tremendous performances out of the actresses. The story had just enough science and just enough science fiction/magic to pique my interest. The ending is somewhat ambiguous, but in a good way. Lots of theorizing on the way home, the way a trippy Sci-fi movie should be received.

I know its passe at this point to harp on the general audience’s lack of acceptance for anything remotely intelligent, but I must do so. Arrival came out a few years back and was tremendous, but was not that well received until managed to get a huge bump once it was nominated for Best Picture. The director of Arrival, Denis Villenueve released my favorite film of 2017- Blade Runner 2049, a smart amazingly well crafted film that lives up to, and in many way exceeds, it legendary Ridley Scott progenitor. Both 2049 and the original were considered a flops in the US, with many lambasting 2049 for being too long and boring. It was neither. Now we have this terrific sci-fi film by Alex Garland, who’s first film, Ex Machina, was one of the smartest sci-fi films of 2015. It was also the movie that turned me onto Production company A24.

In Annihilation, we finally get what audiences supposedly clamor for: an original property with strong female leads, a sharp plot, and of obvious quality. The test screenings, however, were shitty so Paramount requests the movie be modified to make Portman more likable and to change the ending. Producer Scott Rudin, to his credit, told them to go fly a kite. Netflix swoops in and gets the distribution rights after Paramount goes chicken shit. They give the film a theatrical release, but it will only be for a couple of weeks. On March 12th it goes live on Netflix where it will no doubt reach a wider audience. It is great that it will be seen, but its not the way it should be seen. This is a big, beautiful film that deserves to be watched on a wall sized screen. Do yourselves a favor and go see it before it vanishes. 8/10

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