The 339th review!
I love doing these reviews, truly. I look forward to it all year. But this round has been tough. I watch my movies late at night once President Baby goes to bed, and that dude is like his father, he's a night owl. Since I've been back to work I wait until I get home at midnight to watch. Let me tell you, as someone who routinely worked 6:00 PM - 3:00 AM shifts, I can no longer hang. So today, how about we discuss...
This was suggested to me by my old roommate Peter, who has a pretty good track record when it comes to recommendations. I wanted to watch it last year, but never got around to it. A meteorite has landed on Earth and it created a weird barrier around the area they're calling "The Shimmer" because it has a prism-like color. Eventually that area started growing, and anybody that they have sent into The Shimmer hasn't returned... until now. A soldier named Kane comes back home to his wife and almost immediately his body shuts down. Lena, played by Natalie Portman, gets taken, along with Kane, to a military base just outside The Shimmer. Driven by her desire to save her husband, guilt over how she left things, and (the theme of this movie), man's self destructive nature, she agrees to go with a team inside to investigate. She's a former soldier and a biologist, so she has a good movie reason to be on the team. I wanted to like this movie, it has a lot going for it. I loved when they were in The Shimmer. While they're on this planet, it looks and feels like a completely different world. There's mutations in the plant life and the animal life, including an AWESOME bear/pig monster. It can apparently mimic people's voices that it killed in order to lure people out, creating some terrifying sequences. So if you think about it, this creature is part bear, part pig and part man. I think I remember reading about such a creature... The whole time they're in there it keeps you on edge because you know something could be lurking and waiting, and you have no idea what it could be. There's a pretty wild sequence at the end at the lighthouse that's another major highlight for me.
To this movie's credit, it sticks with you and makes you think about what you just watched. There's a lot of philosophy talk and the movie dangles questions for you without outright giving you answers. It also did something that I hate in these movies at the very end. It makes you think something pretty major happened, despite them showing you otherwise. Sorry, I don't want to explain further because it's a huge happening in the movie. People think it's deep and clever, I think it's lazy. But still, it has a lot going for it. Anytime they come across some remnants of a previous expedition are major highlights. Seeing a video tape of the last group produces the best "Holy shit!" moment of the movie. Plus, seeing what happened to one of those soldiers at the end, and the fallout from it is an impressive jaw-dropping scene. After watching; I went to Google to see what people thought about it. I've realized it's one of those movies where you can line up 15 people, get them all to watch it, and they'll come away with their own interpretations. One I read had the hypothesis that the aggressive and self destructive ones get annihilated, while the accepting ones get assimilated. I really don't think that's the case because Lena chooses violence right at the jump.
I enjoyed the characters as well. I liked how they interacted and it was a change from what I usually see. I'm so used to seeing military movies where the characters are all men. But here, every character that really mattered is a woman. And you know what? It works. It's not played up, you just see four people struggling to survive something they know nothing about. Each has their reasons for being there and it all works. Their chemistry was good, although one character's turn to the dark side seemed a little fast to me. I was set to do a team up discussing this move with my friend Shawn on a Facebook Live or something similar this year but that fell through. Maybe next year! You can find his review here. https://www.thelonestarveteran.com/post/annihilation
Here's the big sticking point for me. It's too much like H.P. Lovecraft's classic Color out of Space and the Nicholas Cage movie based off it that came out the same year. A meteor crashes on Earth. It starts changing the biology in the surrounding area. Investigations go terribly, people lose their minds and then it ends in a similar fashion. Even the crazy colors (which are somewhat close) and weird mutations were done much better in the Lovecraft movie. I love cosmic horror. It is exceedingly fascinating to me how insignificant humans are in those stories. It's just... if you're doing cosmic horror, you're not going to be able to beat Lovecraft, especially when one of the movies has Nicholas Cage at peak cage.
6.5 Dr. Chainsaws!
1 h 55 min 2018 Rated R
A biologist and former solider (Natalie Portman) must lead a mission into a mysterious quarantine zone known as The Shimmer, a beautiful but deadly world of mutated landscapes and creatures that threatens all life on Earth.
Directors: Alex Garland
Starring: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez
Supporting actors: Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny, Oscar Isaac