C Lo’s Movie Reviews: Who knew self-destruction could be so beautiful?
I’ve been to the depths of my mind to try and feel safer but all I eerily get is uneasy and scared. What could I do to help myself and not try to peel away my skin? It helps me feel like I’m awake; like I’m alive.
It’s a difficult journey to take, getting out of the shadows that you’ve grown accustomed to. But you have to. It will help heal you. Face your demons. Don’t be afraid. It will get better.
Coming into Alex Garland’s sophomore directorial debut, “Annihilation,” I wasn’t prepared to think about life and its mix of beauty and horror. This film punched me in the brain with all of its visual prowess and metaphors. Garland is primarily a writer, having created sci-fi classic screenplays such as “28 Days Later” and “Ex Machina.” These films have something in common: not only are they genre films but they are intellectually and visually engaging films.
In retrospect, I should have known the kind of film Garland would present to me. I just didn’t know how to take looking into my own psyche to learn about the kind of person that I am.
Natalie Portman delivers an outstanding performance, along with all the other supporting actresses, as a biologist and former army soldier in “Annihilation.” This film delves into a world of science fiction and aliens but still keeps it grounded by adding extra layers of humanity.
A meteor strikes a lighthouse and from that, a shimmering wall spreads slowly, making everything in it biologically evolve more grotesquely and unstable. The government, trying to keep this all under wraps, gives the go for a team of all-women scientists to go into, what they term The Shimmer, so they can find the source and figure out how to stop it.
To take the main theme of this film only one way is incorrect. I, personally, focused on how the whole film is a metaphor of self-destruction and getting through hardships.
Garland describes the film in a The Verge interview as being, “the nature of self-destruction in a literal sense: cells have life cycles and stars have life cycles and plants and the universe and us. You, me, everyone. But also psychological forms of self-destruction.”
And that’s what is so great about a film like “Annihilation:” it poses questions and answers that you can discuss with friends or others. This is what films nowadays should be doing instead of mindless action. I’m looking at you, Michael Bay.
My interpretation of Garland’s film was a metaphorical journey of healing from self-destruction and confronting personal struggles. Some might see it as beautiful temptations are still evil. Whatever the major theme you see in “Annihilation,” you will find some sort of empathy for the hero in her journey.
On top of directing “Annihilation,” Garland also adapted it and wrote it for the silver screen. I commend him for using his creative freedoms to the best of his abilities. In a Q&A by CNET, Garland detailed how he used memory as a storytelling device in his film.
“Instead of going back and re-reading it and underlining passages, I did an adaptation from my experience of having read it without going back to the book,” Garland said. “What that means is that sometimes the film correlates very closely and sometimes it doesn’t. So it really has a function of memory.”
Does this sound like a trippy way to tell a story? You have no idea.
The last movie I saw that used psychedelic visuals in a way that was integral to the story was Marvel Studios’ “Doctor Strange.” This capped that film’s mark on the trippy visuals. Without any spoilers, everything in The Shimmer is an unremarkable beauty; from colorful flowers of different species sprouting from the same vine to transparent crystalline trees that surround the lighthouse.
The last act alone is worth the ticket stub.
I worry that audiences won’t get to enjoy this film in a theater, considering it’s such a marvel in artwork. The Atlantic reports that “Annihilation” has been released in the U.S., Canada and China in theaters; however, internationally outside of those countries, Netflix will stream it.
I can understand that head of Skydance Productions David Ellison couldn’t see this kind of film profit. Subsequent re-shoots to change the ending of “Annihilation” caused apprehensiveness. Still, “Arrival,” being the challenging film it is and how much money it raked in from the buzz of being a down-to-Earth and well-made science fiction film, changed the game for how modern genre films can be written and molded into something new.
I was able to have fun with “Annihilation”’s action scenes while still being fascinated by the creation of a world that deals with a person’s psychological and physical self-destruction. I dug into my unconscious to look into a mirror. This mirror displayed my own annihilation and how that process hurts those around me. It’s a learning experience that I’ve been fortunate enough to have been aware and treat it for a long time.
When a film reminds you of your own life and your endeavors, it’s a sign that entertaining and reflective ideas are still out there to be put into art.