Annihilation (2018)

AnnihilationIts a pity that Paramount decided to sell Alex Garland’s quite brilliant Annihilation to Netflix for international markets rather than risk financial woes with a cinema release, but considering what films are successful out there these days and what cinema audiences seem to prefer it’s a perfectly understandable decision, sadly- not one I agree with, but I can understand their thinking.  The film is certainly a tough sell and demands a lot from the audience, including patience and a willingness to do some work, and the ending is indeed, while I won’t go into spoiler territory, something that must have made the execs nervous.

That all said, this film finally got me subscribing to Netflix and I’m so glad I did- this one film worth a months subscription alone (and hey, I get a free month first anyway). While I’m sad that I won’t be able to watch it on a big screen, I’m glad I won’t have to suffer the irritating mobile phone habits and other moronic behaviour that is infecting modern cinema audiences, instead thrilling to this brand new film in the comfort of my home. Maybe this is the future for serious science fiction films anyway- while its wrong to think of BR2049 as a failure (sure it didn’t break even, but it did pretty well considering its length/certificate/intelligence) and no Netflix deal might have saved it, there is certainly an argument to be made to leave the cinemas to the mindless blockbuster spectacles.  You just have to manage the budgets a bit more effectively, I suppose, and question if BR2049 and Villeneuve’s upcoming Dune simply have to be huge to tell their story or if instead its possible to go with a smaller scope.

ann2At any rate, Annihilation is a wonderfully intelligent, thought-provoking and emotionally demanding science fiction film. In places its as horrific as Carpenter’s The Thing, in others as fascinating as Villeneuve’s Arrival, in others as disturbing as Kubrick’s The Shining and as mystifying as his  2001: A Space Odyssey. If that description doesn’t make this film essential to you then I pity you. Its pretty wonderful and the fact that a studio doesn’t think that it can release a film such as this in cinemas is pretty damning, really. But here we are, its 2018 and cinema and television and how we watch films is changing all the time (I sincerely hope we get a disc release with a commentary and other extras eventually).

Like in Arrival, there is a real sense of something truly alien and strange in this film, something transformative about the experience of watching it. There all sorts of subtexts and mysteries playing within it. Is the visitation that creates the Shimmer, a region of expanding space that threatens to eventually consume all the Earth, an event of Extra-Terrestrial contact or of a religious one, or both? Is the film actually about our bodies betraying us, the horror of cancer, of having no control of what is within us, makes us?  We see tantalising glimpses of something utterly alien and beyond human understanding, and yet at the same time the horrors are familiar, internal ones. Transformation from self-destruction, everything that lives, dies, and we lose everything, even our minds, eventually, given Time. And even Time betrays us.

Beyond that, I won’t say anymore about this movie. I think it’s wrong to spoil any of this movie and I hope everyone gets to see it unaware of the secrets/pleasures ahead of them. In awhile I’ll return to this film in more detail but for now, yeah, it’s as good as everyone says and I hope everyone who wants to gets to see it (not everyone has Netflix or wants it). While just sitting down to watch a new movie still playing in cinemas Stateside was something of a pleasure it is also something of a poisoned chalice for fans of serious science fiction or adult film making in general. Is this, afterall, the future? And it can’t be denied, no matter how much I enjoyed this film, it would have been an immeasurably more powerful experience in the cinema.

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8 thoughts on “Annihilation (2018)

  1. Tom

    I loved this movie! I also love how you reference all those sci fi/horror classics, because while I’m unsure the appreciation for Annihilation will enjoy the kind of longevity or even latent appreciation that some of those films have, in part because of the way Annihilation is going to be awkwardly distributed. It is so regrettable that it’s being dumped onto Netflix, but I’m really glad you were able to watch it and also really enjoy it. All i want is just some level of access to smarter, more provocative types of movies. However it is possible. The day directors just give up on creating this kind of stuff completely will be a very despairing day.

    1. Tom

      That was an incomplete comment lol. While those other giants enjoyed years and years of cult appreciation, Annihilation is a modern fascination that is immediately and notably different from the pack. You just won’t see anything else like it this year. Which is why I can’t stop singing its praises. I’m sure I’ve already been obnoxious about it

  2. Matthew McKinnon

    I am very annoyed because my TV is being fixed at the exact moment that this is released.
    I am a fan of the novel, and halfway to liking Garland. Damn it.

  3. Matthew McKinnon

    I watched it the other day and was very disappointed.

    Garland strips away the weirdness and ambiguity of the novel, and replaces it with rickety characterisations and mediocre threadbare melodrama. There are a handful of interesting trippy scenes, but they don’t seem attached to anything or lead anywhere.
    And the end reveal was Twilight Zone 101.

    1. I wonder if that’s the problem with being familiar with (usually superior) source material? I’ve no idea what differences there are as I’m not at all familiar with the novel, and had assumed any minor issues I had were simply from the source. Seems much was changed, and here’s me assuming that ending had more to do with teasing the second book (and possible movie). I suppose knowing source material saddles you with expectations. I remember back in 1982 most negative views of Blade Runner were from those familiar with DADOES and seeing a film nothing like the original story other than the basic plot of hunting androids, the setting and many characters missing or changed beyond recognition.

      I’m really enjoying Altered Carbon on Netflix currently but again, have no idea if any liberties were taken with the book/s so I accept that readers of the book/s may have issues with the series that I don’t. I always think it’s best to see a movie, and then discover the book etc and find its actually better than the movie, a much more pleasant way of discovering things. Sometimes movies get it better, although its rare.

      Claire is a sucker for Dan Brown books (and yet I still love her) and the movies based on them but was very disappointed with Inferno, not simply because it was a poor movie but because it chickened out of the books superior and darker ending. Viewers of the film ignorant of the book likely enjoyed it for what it was but how many fans looking forward to a somewhat bold ending would be left very annoyed by what the film-makers did instead?

  4. For me the hype that drifted over the pond was a problem for this one — I liked it a lot, but I didn’t love it. That said, I felt similarly about Ex Machina and Arrival at first, and they grew on me a lot, so who knows? I’m sure I’ll re-watch it someday.

    Netflix are clearly having a seismic effect on the the funding/distribution model for certain kinds of movies, and I expect will continue to do so. I’m just glad they’re getting behind stuff like this, and Cloverfield Paradox and Mute — yeah, those other two were disappointments in themselves, but the general direction is the right one. I guess fans of this kind of stuff are always at the forefront of technological innovations, so it makes sense.

  5. Pingback: Month in Review: March ’18 | Thomas J

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