Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson, Oscar Isaac, Gina Rodriguez
Director: Alex Garland
“A biologist signs up for a dangerous, secret expedition into a mysterious zone where the laws of nature don’t apply” (IMDB).
What to Expect
The Colour Out of Space
Tessa Thompson as a flower child
Why You Should Watch It
Fans of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy–the first book from which the film gets its title and inspiration–will be disappointed to find Annihilation a faithful adaptation of the text. However, they should take solace in the fact that Garland didn’t completely murder the story by trying to draw it out into as many movies as possible. Despite the plethora of unanswered questions, he ties the plot up in a neat little iridescent bow, and I find that refreshing. In the film’s deviations, there is room for a lot of original and disturbing things. It’s definitely not something you can predict, even if you’ve read the book. Plus those end credit visuals are positively mesmerizing.
Rainy Day Flick (C)
I could hardly wait to watch Annihilation after finishing the novel. Grand, fantastical visions filled my head of how the tower, the writing, the crawler, the transformations, and the biologist’s brush with the moaner in the reeds would translate to the silver screen. And…NONE OF THAT WAS IN THE FILM.
I was more saddened than angry at discovering how loose this adaptation is, but it does make sense that Garland went the way he did. For starters, the other two books in the trilogy hadn’t been published when he was making the film, so he had no idea where the story was going. Not much of a stickler for sequels, he didn’t want to leave the movie open-ended, so a few plot changes had to be made. Also, VanderMeer’s novel can come off frustratingly slow, and almost nothing is ever answered, mostly hinted at. For all the weird shit that goes down in the flick, at least the characters have more back story, and the confrontations are more visceral and violent. There’s a lot of symbolism and recurring themes to pick up on. The characters’ descent into madness was also a nice touch. In the book, the narrator forgets a few things, like her comrades’ names, and there is deceit and deception, but not on the level that Garland explores.
Yes, there are still so, SO many things I don’t understand, like everything that happens in the lighthouse. Was her clone a manifestation of the Thing that originally crash-landed? Was it just something separate from the Thing, a toy created from her DNA? How did the batteries in the camera not die after being dormant for a year? How come the flesh of the exploded man in the pool hadn’t decayed or morphed after all that time as well? Why does every person who begins to change have an infinity ouroboros tattoo on their left arm? Was it me or did Ventress not have eyes when we first see her in the hole?
Some of the things I can answer are these: Lena’s affair was the driving factor in her husband going on the expedition. Her confrontation with the shiny clone in the lighthouse was her fighting the person she had become in the affair. Cancer is a motif, and the Shimmer can be viewed like a cancer.
I personally do not believe the Lena who came back is the clone, but it is a definite possibility. When Lena immolates her clone with the grenade, the first thing it does is to put its hand on the skull of Real Kane. The only reason it would make sense for the clone to do that is because it has some of Real Lena’s memories either due to the refraction process of the Shimmer, or when it was being created from her blood. Then we watch it crawl back into its sphincter-like hole and spread the *bright pretty fire* throughout the core–returning to the womb to die. Looking at that scene, it actually makes more sense that this is Real Lena who is burning. She places a hand on her husband to say a final goodbye to him, and then drags herself into the Shimmer’s core to destroy it. But the Lena who returns is not like the cloned Kane. She remembers almost everything, only saying, “I don’t know” for things she truly can’t explain, or intentionally omitting parts of her story. Some believe she is the clone because her eyes shimmer like Kane’s at the end, but we already know that her cells were refracting with the environment and she has been altered in some way. I think, because of her time spent in Area X, and because she made it to the impact site where the power of the Shimmer was the strongest, that she gave and took a lot of the Shimmer, including her cloned self. Real Lena returned, but she was irrevocably changed. It’s why she can’t answer cloned Kane when he asks if she’s Lena. She’s not the same person she was when she went in.
And for those who argue her water was mutating (in the final moments of her interrogation) because the reflection of her hands were backwards must not have noticed the scene in the beginning of the film when Lena and Kane are seen holding hands through the refraction of the water glass. In that scene, their hands are flipped as well. I believe the first scene was a way to foreshadow the refraction properties of the Shimmer. The second scene shows how she isn’t the clone because it mirrors the connection she still strives to have with her husband: through the water glass we clearly see she is wearing her wedding ring.
As for everything else, we have H.P. Lovecraft’s elegant prose to explain for us. Reading this excerpt from “The Colour Out of Space,” it’s easy to imagine Garland using Lovecraft’s short story as the foundation for Annihilation, with VanderMeer’s novel as the building blocks:
∞ It was just a colour out of space—a frightful messenger from unformed realms of infinity beyond all Nature as we know it; from realms whose mere existence stuns the brain and numbs us with the black extra-cosmic gulfs it throws open before our frenzied eyes. ∞