Releasing from Paramount Pictures to blu-ray and DVD today is Annihilation a slow burn of a science fiction film from director Alex Garland. Based, subjectively, on the trilogy of novels by Jeff VanderMeer, it’s a gorgeous looking film
A strange, possibly extra-terrestrial incursion in a swamp in Florida has claimed an untold number of teams that have been sent into investigate. They’ve all disappeared. Except one. One person alone has returned from something called the Shimmer, Lena’s (Natalie Portman) husband, Kane (Oscar Isaac).
No sooner does he return when he collapses, organ failure, his life wilting before Lena’s eyes. Both of them are taken to an institute known as the Southern Reach, just outside the Shimmer. Determined to find out what happened in there, and carrying a guilt of past acts, Lena joins a team of scientists, including Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and Josie Radek (Tessa Thompson) and they venture into a strange realm.
The world within the Shimmer is being altered, mutated, refracted, and it affects everything. Is it an alien intelligence at work? First contact? An invasion?
Answers are hinted at, and those who have read the books are going to get more from it that the casual viewer, especially for the film’s climax.
While I recognise that the trilogy would be tough to adapt, I also think there could have been more to it than what Garland created, In fact, as I read it, I saw it almost as a limited television series, that would be steeped in the mystery, paranoia, and the edge of discovery and understanding that permeates the novels.
There are in fact a number of things in the books that don’t make it into the film, which is too bad, because there are moments and images that stay with you, I can see them all in my head, perfectly realised, and they would have fit perfectly into Garland’s visually stunning film (the images fairly leap off the screen in this gorgeous blu-ray transfer). But it was not to be.
This one is a thoughtful, slow-burn of a film that requires thought, and an investment from the viewers, and can launch conversations after its screening.
Garland has proven himself with his writing credits, and his brilliant film, Ex Machina, and this one will either continue to win over his fans or prove divisive for them. Speaking for myself, I enjoyed it, but I loved the books, so I had a constant frame of reference for the entire film.
The extras are enjoyably comprehensive as well, from the development of the screenplay, to casting, to production, to post, there is over an hour long collection of featurettes, which can played as one three part documentary about the making of the film.
This one is a solid and thoughtful film, wonderfully portrayed, and may lead a number of viewers to the fantastic, mess with your mind novels.
Annihilation is available on blu-ray and DVD today from Paramount Pictures.