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Teacher Retirements
June 3, 2024

A Case of Survival


Natalie Portman and director Alex Garland team up to create a visionary film about the survival of the fittest

Loosely adapted from Jeff VanderMeer’s novel of the same name, Alex Garland’s Annihilation tells the story of Lena (Natalie Portman), a biologist who finds herself signing up for a risky expedition that sets to find the cause of why an American coast has been overtaken by a mysterious alien-like substance. The substance, known as “The Shimmer”, has somehow been able to cause strange mutations within the plants and animals living within the region. Being able to cause a slow deterioration to the human brain, the unworldly entity has an immense amount of power to it. While Lena and her team of both doctors and scientists go onto investigate the hauntingly beautiful area in which the substance is inhabited, they begin to encounter troubling evidence and information about what The Shimmer really is.

(from left to right) Jennifer Jason Leigh, Natalie Portman, Tuva Novotny, Gina Rodriguez, and Tessa Thompson stop to admire the beauty of “The Shimmer” before they head to face the potential dangers inside.

First and foremost, the visuals in this film are breathtaking. Each scene inside The Shimmer is absolutely gorgeous to look at. The way the director, Alex Garland portrays how the entity consumes each area in which he captures the full effect of the mutation is incredible.

Despite only being Alex Garland’s second feature film, Annihilation sets up the writer/director for greatness. He is able to show throughout the whole film that he had a vision from the start. Much like legendary director Stanley Kubrick, known for 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, and many more. Garland is able to show his cinematic intelligence from the way the film is presented, leaving the story open to interpretation, which sparks conversation.

To the average moviegoer, Annihilation can be quite confusing. For example, the very beginning puts forth a set amount of details which prove to be pretty important near the climax of the film. The attention to detail is so precise that you need to pay close attention in order to really understand what is going on throughout the movie.

Focusing on Natalie Portman’s character, the film leaves a hole in the development of the ensemble. While including talents such as: Oscar Isaac, Gina Rodriguez, and Tessa Thompson, Annihilation does not give the viewer a sense of empathy because of the lack of characterization.  

All in all, Alex Garland’s newest piece of cinema is interesting, confusing, and stunning to view. The visuals, acting by Portman, and Garland’s writing are all the high points of the film, but the need to focus on every single detail can be very exhausting in order to get the whole experience. Despite being extremely loud, Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury’s score perfectly fits with each scene. Even though it is coming to Netflix on March 12th, I’d strongly recommend watching the movie inside a theater because the way it is presented is meant to be seen on the silver screen. A truly gorgeous piece of work, Annihilation is a great film for a movie fanatic, but not as much for the average joe.


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