Annihilation

The furor around streaming versus big screen is an interesting one – everyone has an opinion on it. Personally I feel that if the director’s intention (as was the case here) was for the film to be seen on the big screen then that is where the film should debut. If I had the power (and in another part of The Spac Hole I do) I would want every film to debut in Cinema. Hell, I would want to watch every TV show on the big screen too – the quality of television these days almost demands that shows with spectacle such as GOT and TWD should be seen with a crowd on a massive screen. However, the world is continuing to move away from such things – films are now becoming available on smaller and smaller screens, in more and more portable ways, and are becoming both more personal and less engaged experiences. Personal in that you can sit watching with headphones in bed or on the train or on the trap with no-one else annoying you, but less engaged in that you’re more likely to watch the movie in short bursts instead of a single sitting – something which I can’t stand but freely admit to doing more and more.

Annihilation is the latest film from Alex Garland – riding high after Ex Machina – with this film being another intelligent entry into a new wave of sci-fi movies. Based on the story of the same name (nope, haven’t read it) it follows an all-women group of scientists and soldiers as they venture into a wavering phenomenon which has arrived in the USA and has been growing steadily. This shimmer, as they call it, appeared three years ago, and all attempts to investigate successfully have failed – recording equipment yields no results, data is cursory, and any people who have gone into it have never returned. That is until one solider, Kane, returns home after having entered the shimmer a year earlier, although he has no memory of his lost time and is disoriented and sick. His wife, played by Natalie Portman, joins the all female team to enter the shimmer and find some answers once and for all.

I haven’t read many reviews of the film so far, but I imagine comparisons to 2001 will be frequently made. The film is a journey of body and mind – not quite the action epic I was anticipating when I first heard about it. There is action, but this is more akin to something like Moon than Aliens. There are meditations on guilt, depression, hope, and a lot of digestible science to chew on, though it might take multiple viewings to fully swallow and appreciate. The visuals are often stunning and the performances are uniformly strong, albeit mostly on the samey side – almost every character seems to be in a malaise of some sort and it’s really only Portman and Leigh’s characters how generate and depth or feeling. On a visual level it’s undoubtedly a success, from a thematic and philosophical perspective I imagine it will have more supporters than detractors, while on an emotional level the coldness left me… cold. The struggles near the end reminded me of the similar struggles for survival of Gravity but didn’t affect me on as personal a level. Another watch might make me think differently, but at this point in time it’s not a film I feel that I need to see again.

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