‘Annihilation’ beautifully lets down audiences


Collider Magazine

The group of women enter the Shimmer to research the inside of the unknown area. Photo courtesy of Collider Magazine.

Lauren Nery, Editor-in-Chief

A strong group of female scientists, hypnotizing animation, and sci-fi mysteries brought audiences to theaters to see Alex Garland’s “Annihilation.” Though I was disappointed in the acting by the individuals in this film, the complexity in relationships created complex, even mutated emotions during the exhibition. This unique Sci-Fi film may have felt forced, but its obscure plot and meaning had audiences leave speechless.

The beginning of the film pulled me in with the heart-tugging story of a broken relationship between an Army special forces soldier and his wife, Lena (Natalie Portman), a biologist and former soldier. Kane (Oscar Isaac) is away– presumably dead. Unsurprisingly and quickly, audiences learn Lena’s husband, Kane, is alive and the sole survivor of a secret government mission.

In order to understand why the borders of a contaminated area were constantly expanding, four scientists, including Lena, ventured into the Shimmer to avenge Lena’s dying husband. No soldiers had returned from the Shimmer besides Kane, giving the team of women no direction in their journey.

Everything in the Shimmer disorients the scientists and the audience: the climate is constantly adapting, time is undefined, and the women become less and less human. Throughout the duration of the film, the only thing made clear was that nothing was clear. Lena, said “I don’t know” more times than one could count. Because the Shimmer erased women’s’ memories, time was presented as both abnormal and undefined creating a confusing plot for the audience.

Portman’s portrayal of Lena was both bland and unconvincing because she played the voice of reason of the women who ventured into the Shimmer. However, I was more disappointed in the nauseating acting of Jennifer Jason Leigh who portrayed Dr. Ventress, a psychologist, and leader of the expedition to the Shimmer. Her lack of emotion left me disinterested, no matter what the scene.

This void of emotion drew me towards the female relationships, especially in the beginning, after Cass Shepard (Tuva Novotnhy), a geologist, described the complexities of each individual to Lena. The reasoning for going on a “suicide mission,” like Ventress having cancer, and two other women having drug and self-harm issues, made the journey intense before the plot began to fall apart.

Perhaps the only thing that made the story bearable was the dreamlike but nonsensical animation. The plants and animals in the beautiful swamp landscape painted a picture of the constantly mutating Shimmer. Glass trees growing in the sand surrounded the lighthouse alongside semi covered human bones gave a dazzling but eerie perspective of the mutations the Shimmer created. The animation of the physically undefined alien in the lighthouse caught my eye most: Its awkward mimicking movements in the final battle scene with Lena were hysterical, though intended to be serious.

The science behind the Shimmer described by physicist Josie Radek (Tessa Thomas) logically made no sense, and the elaborate animation covered it up like the Spanish moss over the landscape.