Annihilation - Girl Power on Netflix
Eighteen years ago, Alex Garland brought us The Beach and Leonardo DiCaprio. Both welcome additions to the world of cinema. Now, he has co-written and directed a girl power film for a new generation.
Natalie Portman plays a biologist whose husband, a marine disappears on a secret mission. She puts her name forward for an expedition into an environmental disaster zone, but does not find what she's expecting. The expedition team is made up of a biologist, an anthropologist, a psychologist, a surveyor and a linguist. Along the way they encounter a myriad of mysteries which challenge them, their beliefs and their understanding of the world around them.
It has been some time since we had a mainly non-derivative science fiction film on our screens. We have become used to the galaxy far, far away or the final frontier or, indeed the commercial-industrial complex led by Weyland Industries. Sure, we've had psych-science-fiction from the likes of Stephen King's The Mist (the original film with the most bleak ending of any film ever, not the poor TV version from late last year).
Annihilation is not without its faults. The plotting is contrived, the script a little confusing and motivation of most of the five main protagonists is vague at best. Plus, this is a waste of Portman's talents. Yes, she scrunches up her brow and cries on cue and wrests every inch of emotion she can from the script however the sight of her felling giant animals with an M16, a gun she looks barely able to lift, seems unlikely. Portman is the only thing holding the film together.
The effects are good, particularly the "human trees". The creatures our band of five intrepid explorers encounter possess a chilling aspect which I won't divulge here. It unsettles our characters and it unsettled me.
The twist at the end was signposted a mile off and was a little empty when it happened. I'm not sure if a sequel is in the offing as this film went straight to Netflix. A possible TV series exploring what happens next would be welcome.
My original thoughts were to score this at 2 out of 5 however the originality and Portman's performance lifts it to a 3 out of 5.