Despite the amazing visuals, Annihilation might be a trippy ride but it’s a ride that needs to be experienced for oneself.
Given that he was the mind behind Ex Machina, it’s no surprise that Alex Garland was chosen to adapt Annihilation for the big screen. Despite the fascinating sci-fi ideas behind the first novel in Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, the film is not without some controversy.
Lena (Natalie Portman) left the Army in order to go into academics. She’s working at Johns Hopkins but her husband, Kane (Oscar Isaac), has been missing for months. Nobody is telling her anything and one of her colleagues is trying to convince her to move on and just assume that he’s dead. Almost as soon as Lena makes that assumption, lo and behold, it’s Kane who walks in through the door.
One quick emotional reunion later, Lena finds herself waking up in a mysterious place, which is revealed to be Area X surrounding a shimmer that started to grow after something crashed into a lighthouse. Upon waking up, Lena gets questioned by Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh). All Lena wants to know is what happened to her husband. She soon recruits herself into the next expedition to see if she can get any answers. Led by Ventress, the expedition is one that is full of all females: Anya Thorensen (Gina Rodriguez), Cass Sheppard (Tuva Novotny), and Josie Radek (Tessa Thompson). Once inside, there’s a lot to be discovered but also a lot to be afraid of. For Lena, the biggest question to solve is what exactly happened to Kane when he went inside the Shimmer.
There’s a question of whether or not Garland white-washed the book by placing Natalie Portman in the role of Lena. The word has it that VanderMeer signed off on his approval before Garland ever saw the second or third books, where Lena’s race was revealed. It’s an issue that has been discussed during the junket and VanderMeer even took to Twitter to offer his thoughts. Despite the fact that casting started in 2015 and the film went into production in 2016, all three books were published in 2014.
Portman’s a great actress and she doesn’t phone it in either. One has to believe that she wouldn’t have done the film if she had known about the character’s race. The same goes for Jennifer Jason Leigh. Despite the controversy surrounding their casting, Annihilation boasts a pretty diverse cast with great chemistry to boot.
Just as Ex Machina wasn’t for everyone, the same can be said about Annihilation. It’s a film that can get super scary at times so be prepared accordingly.
DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER: Alex Garland
CAST: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny, and Oscar Isaac
Paramount Pictures will release Annihilation in theaters on Friday, February 23, 2018.