Annihilation: sci-fi for the thinking audience

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The “Annihilation” movie poster show Natalie Portman’s character leading a group through “the shimmer.” Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

Writer and director of the influential sci-fi thinking piece, “Ex Machina,” Alex Garland, continues to use the sci-fi film genre to pose profound questions regarding human nature to audiences in his latest work, “Annihilation.”

“Annihilation” stars Natalie Portman as Lena, a biologist who is recruited to join a team of women who are tasked with investigating an area in the Florida panhandle that has been struck by a meteorite and appears to be undergoing otherworldly changes.

This area, dubbed “the shimmer,” as it is surrounded by a wall of a translucent, rainbow-like substance, seems to change the genetics of every living thing within and scrambles any signals coming in or out of it.

Every team of people that has been sent into the shimmer never returns, so Lena and her crew must head inside and unearth the secrets of why it is there, what it is and what can be done about it.

Lena and her crew enter the shimmer and face many dangers in this new and unstable environment.

They learn more about what the shimmer is, what it does and most importantly, learn in a gut-wrenching way more about themselves and those who came before them.

Questions regarding human nature, man’s self-destructive inclinations, the essence of evil, the implications of the coding of our DNA and many more are laced throughout their journey inside the shimmer.

“Annihilation” fascinates audiences through its intelligent storytelling, the exploration of layered characters, detailed and vivid effects, and solid acting performances, rather than relying solely on its far-reaching themes to interest viewers.

Once the team has entered this bright and continually changing landscape, they have entered a new world where the rules have completely changed.

Many more questions are raised than answered in this film. While this may be disappointing to some viewers who desire a more clear-cut experience, it should serve to refresh lovers of rich sci-fi experiences which are open to innumerable interpretations.

All of the on-screen talents portray their characters well, but Portman particularly shines as Lena, crafting a complex and relatable character as she fully encompasses the minute aspects of her character that ground the actions of one so mysterious and emotionally driven.

The world in the film is understood through Lena’s eyes, and the subtle changes in the constitution of her character allow the viewer to grasp the sophisticated themes and metaphors strung throughout the experience.

Despite Portman’s great work as Lena, the other characters contain most of the problems found within the movie.

The characters of the other four members of the team are poorly developed and serve as mouthpieces to move the plot along and to provide connections used to make sense of the deep metaphorical tones of the film.

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