Annihilation Movie Review

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!

annihilation movie
Annihilation movie post (Source: Image from Cryptic Rock blog )

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!

This post first appeared on The Misadventures of a Media Journalist. My review of the book can be found here.

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Meagan Reads SciFi: Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

I’ve been participating in the MadLibs Reading Challenge 2018, and I chose this book as one of the “noun” categories. Be warned that spoilers are coming ahead, so if you plan on reading the book, do not pass this line!

Annihilation is a relatively short read, but don’t let it’s small size fool you. There is such a complexity of character and plot happening that the writing itself very much resembles the way the biologist, the main character, views the world around her.

Even though VanderMeer wrote the story so that none of the characters had names, it didn’t create for a lack of depth with each one. I felt a particular kinship with the biologist though, as most of the story unfolds from her point of view.

She tells the story with a clinical voice, especially at the beginning, in which she constantly talks about observation and analyzing the environment around her, whether it’s in a lab, at a tidepool, or even in her own marriage. She makes it clear that observation holds more value to her rather than interaction, and I felt such a relief in seeing a female character that emphasizes this point without being villainized.

Through her habit of observation, she remains apart from her ecosystem, and never becomes a part of the ecosystem. I think after recent conversations I had with a friend of mine about how I’m so quiet all the time and I rarely tend to interact with people, it felt good to see another woman portrayed this way, but not made to be evil.

That doesn’t mean that her tendency toward introspection and observation didn’t irk those around her. It’s made clear in her flashbacks to her marriage with her husband, one of the lost souls to the previous Southern Reach expedition to Area X, that he was vexed with her habit of retreating into her own observations and never letting anyone in, emotionally. When she volunteered to go as part of the next expedition, the psychologist was also annoyed at how little she could get out of the biologist.

Now, as to the plot of the story, I’m not gonna lie. I don’t entirely know what it’s point is or where it’s going (as there are two more books). I do know that I enjoyed the scenery VanderMeer created with the plant spores that created actual writing on the wall and seemed to have its own life.

Throughout the book, the reader knows there have been various expeditions into Area X to study the phenomenon happening, but we know as much as the explorers do. There is no source or origin for why these mutations are happening or how. There is no explanation as to why they are researching and exploring Area X. Do they think it’s dangerous to the world as a whole? Is there still a world outside of the Southern Reach and Area X? If there was an apocalypse, was this the source?

The explorers and reader don’t even know where the entrance point is to Area X. There’s no recollection of how they got there, and more worrisome to the mysterious government agency in charge of the expeditions, they don’t know how anyone could have gotten out. The biologist’s husband returned from the expedition, but he was the first to do so and he did not return as himself.

One can assume that despite their strained marriage, the biologist entered Area X to find out what came back, because if it wasn’t her husband, what was it, and what else came through? We start to catch glimpses toward the end when the biologist discovers the journals of previous explorers, of which there were many more than the Southern Reach disclosed to present expeditions.

As the book comes to a close, the reader sees there’s something strange going on in the way of clones, doubles, or doppelgangers. How they come to be and where they go is still to be determined.

The one thing I wish I had seen more of in the book were the animals and other plants. There was such a  high focus on the living writing on the walls of the tower/tunnel that the reader didn’t actually see much of Area X’s other creatures, except for a brief appearance of a wild hog that comes close to the expedition’s camp.

When I’ve talked about this book with friends, I’ve described it as the kind of story that fans of Archive 81 would enjoy, and I stand by that statement. I’m definitely itching to find out where the biologist’s journey takes her in the end as she follows her husband’s path deeper into Area X, so I will be picking up the next book.

Has anybody else read this book? What did you think? Do you have theories as to what Area X is exactly and how it came to be? Let me know in the comments!