I needed to leave my apartment last night and just do something pseudo-social, so I decided to go to the movies. I didn’t want to go see Black Panther because I’m waiting for one of my friends to be done with a class he’s in that’s taking up all his time so I decided to see a movie I knew absolutely nothing about, Annihilation.
“A biologist’s husband disappears. She puts her name forward for an expedition into an environmental disaster zone, but does not find what she’s expecting. The expedition team is made up of the biologist, a psychologist, a physicist, a paramedic, and a geologist.”
It looked like a science fiction movie with only women and I was intrigued by the poster, featuring five women in front of some pretty lights. As the previews came on, I had a few thoughts that I might have made a terrible mistake, as most of the previews were for horror movies. Movie previews tend to be in similar genres to whatever you’re about to watch, so I wasn’t quite certain what I’d gotten myself into.
The story unfolds with Lena teaching biology at a university of some sort. She doesn’t seem particularly happy or engaged with her world and the loss of her husband, Kane, is revealed as the movie progresses. This movie has a very, very small cast, but all five of the leading women represent scientists, which I found to be refreshing. In fact, there are only about three men in the entire movie, one is an unnamed “clean up” person, one is Daniel who is a coworker of Lena’s, and the last is Lena’s husband, Kane. Lena is a biologist, Dr. Ventress is a psychologist, Anya Thorensen is a paramedic, Josie Radek is a physicist, and Cass Sheppard is both a surveyor and a geologist.
The group enters the shimmering area and has immediate issues. They lose time, their communications don’t work, and the entire area is covered in genetic mutations. I’m not sure I actually liked any of the characters in the movie, but they were all at least normal people and their motivations for participating in the expedition into the area showed an interesting depth to each of the characters and what kind of person volunteers for those types of expeditions. I also spent some time wondering what kind of reaction I would have to this movie if it had an all-male cast instead of the all-female cast it did. Would violence have solved more of the issues? Would violence have created more issues? Would I have cared what happened to the characters if they were all men? The movie as a whole is one of those movies where you’ll wind up mentally chewing on a lot of the details afterwards.
For me, there were three genuinely horrifying moments in the movie which made me think that perhaps I should have seen something else or at least gone to see the movie with someone so I could crack a joke or something to make myself less uncomfortable. I’m not going to spoil the movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it and wants to experience this movie on their own terms without spoilers by telling you what parts of the movie were genuinely horrifying to me.
Overall, the visuals were stunning and the story interesting but I think it’s only going to be a two on my rating scale just because I’m not sure how keen I am to watch it again. Though, the movie is based on a trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer, which makes me curious to read the books and see how much depth is added and what happens after the end of Annihilation.