Last year, various film sites broke the news that Alex Garland would be directing an adaptation of Jeff Vandermeers’ Annihilation. The news was both exciting and worrying, exciting because Alex Garland debut blockbuster Ex Machina was one of the brightest and entertaining sci-fi features of the last decade, and worrying because I absolutely hated Jeff Vandermeers book. I read an interview around the time the adaptation was announced, where Garland spoke about how the film version would take the concept behind the story and run wild with it, focusing less on what actually happens in the book and more on the “strange and mysterious world” it is set in.
Annihilation follows the story of a group of women who venture into a phenomenon called Area X, where all manner of strange and weird events occur. In the book we are restricted from knowing personal details about the characters, it reads like a field report, there is a stiffness to the words, not even names are mentioned, everyone is referred to by their job title, Biologist, Anthropologist etc. Thankfully in the film we are given more than just names, we’re given fully fleshed out female characters with drive, and it’s beyond refreshing to see a group of talented actresses be handed three dimensional characters and watch them come to life on screen. This film revels in the intelligence, and emotions of its cast, it celebrates what makes them different and allows it’s audience to question their methods, not because of bad writing or poor direction, but because each character has reason behind their actions, and Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson and Gina Rodriguez impress with their performance as the 12th expedition.
Garlands adaptation deviates heavily from it’s source material and the film is better off for it, and the final result is a smart, hallucinogenic trip that doesn’t hold the viewers hand, and allows us to question what we’re seeing and the actions of those on screen. Coupled with the colourful nature and set pieces shot by Garland, is a score that transcends, and transforms as much as the area where the expedition travels. Sonic and surreal, a sensational feast for the senses.
Where Garlands direction, and cinematographer Rob Hardys vision truly comes to like is shines is in the subtleties of Area X where characters of our world comes face to face with the uncanny reflections of Area X. The mutations in the wildlife, the spectrum of colour in the distance, everything is interconnected so well that it immerses you in it’s trance like quality. And trance is probably the only way to describe this films ending.
Annihilation is truly one of those films that reminds you of the power of cinema, and the fact that this film wasn’t even released in the cinema in the UK is a crime.
You can check out Annihilation on Netflix UK. If you’ve already had the pleasure of watching this film, let me know what you think in the comments below!
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