The following post will contain spoilers of both the book and movie, so if you haven’t read or seen either one and don’t want to be spoiled, proceed with caution!
I had had the book on my TBR for a while, and then when I saw that Gina Rodriguez and Oscar Isaac were going to be in a film adaptation, I knew I wanted to see it and that I had to bump the book up on my reading list. That being said, because I’m a fan of those two actors, my perspective on the film may be biased, so take this review as you will.
This was the first time in a long time where I actually read the book before seeing the movie, and so close to seeing the movie that the book was still fresh in my mind. I enjoyed both mediums by which the story was told and appreciated the deviations the movie made from the film for the most part.
I really liked how the film portrayed the animals in Area X, as the book didn’t focus much on them. I do wish the audience could see in the movie though the growing, living words on the walls and the tunnel/tower from the book, but I understand why such a plot point might have been changed for the visual medium of the movie. I also appreciated that all four main characters were given more in depth development, because the book is from the biologist’s perspective, and I felt that kind of internal narration made for less characterization of her supporting cast in the book.
The weakest part of the movie I felt, aside from its deviaton from the book, was the ending. However, I do consider that since I read the book right before I saw the movie, I still had that ending in my mind, which leaves room for the rest of the books in the trilogy to continue, whereas the film seems to have been written to stand on its own, so it needed a more “closed” ending in comparison.
Looking at the film on its own now and not as an extension of the book, I really enjoyed the visuals for everything. The plants that morphed into humanoid shapes were chilling and the decaying bear that captured its victim’s dying vocal cries absolutely terrified me. Out of all the tangible horrors, the alligator was probably the least frightening, but being a Florida girl, it still scared the heck out of me because those things are monstrous and yes they roam pretty freely here like they do in Area X.
The story told in Annihilation is aptly named, as what is depicted in the movie isn’t so much as annihilation from the outside, but rather from the inside. All the characters that went into Area X had destructive tendencies, which was mimicked by the mutations brought on by alien exposures to the environment.
I thought the idea of the nature around them in that area refracting what went in was deeply disturbing, as it brought to life the very destruction that humans cause to themselves mentally and emotionally. The way Tessa Thompson’s character faded into Area X as she gave in to her destruction was particularly haunting.
I will say the silliest visual from the film, in my opinion, was how the psychologist literally self destructed when she went into the lighthouse. While the effects were beautiful, its execution felt forced and like it was only there to create the humanoid celestial being that mirrored the biologist. Overall though, the scene in which Natalie Portman’s character has a physical struggle with the creature had me on edge and in the end, I was still left wondering if she succeeded in destroying it or if it just transformed and became a part of her as she was back in the real world.
I saw someone on Twitter describe Annihilation as the Hollywood version of an indie film and I think that’s an accurate description. It certainly isn’t a movie that will appeal to everybody, but if you’re the type of movie goer who enjoys more psychological horror with some body gore thrown in and minor jump scares, then this film might appeal to you.
Did anyone else see the film? Did you read the book before seeing it or plan to read the book after? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!