Annihilation (Alex Garland, 2018)

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Dr Amicus
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Annihilation (Alex Garland, 2018)

#1 Post by Dr Amicus » Fri Feb 23, 2018 6:07 am

Big Ben wrote:Annihilation, the new Natalie Portman Sci-Fi venture is also getting raves.
Having read the novel Annihilation is taken from, I'm really looking forward to it. And for those unaware of the release issues, this is the film which was deemed TOO INTELLIGENT for audiences and thus outside of the US, Brazil and China (?) has been sold to Netflix where it will screen in 17 days...

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Re: The Films of 2018

#2 Post by Mr Sausage » Fri Feb 23, 2018 6:27 am

Dr Amicus wrote:
Big Ben wrote:That would be Girl's Trip from last year as movielocke mentioned. I was quite surprised myself. Annihilation, the new Natalie Portman Sci-Fi venture is also getting raves.
Having read the novel Annihilation is taken from, I'm really looking forward to it. And for those unaware of the release issues, this is the film which was deemed TOO INTELLIGENT for audiences and thus outside of the US, Brazil and China (?) has been sold to Netflix where it will screen in 17 days...
Wait, too intelligent for non-U.S. audiences? The same U.S. that thought none of its denizens would touch Harry Potter if it had 'philosopher' in the title? Quite a reversal.

I didn't find the novel particularly cerebral, but then I'd guess by 'too intelligent' they mean there's more chatting than shooting.

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Re: The Films of 2018

#3 Post by domino harvey » Fri Feb 23, 2018 8:54 am

My understanding is Paramount didn't know how to market it, so, yes, apparently

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Re: Annihilation (Alex Garland, 2018)

#4 Post by willoneill » Fri Feb 23, 2018 9:17 am

Dr Amicus wrote:
Big Ben wrote:outside of the US, Brazil and China (?) has been sold to Netflix where it will screen in 17 days...
Add Canada to that list as well.

Anyway, I saw this last night, having read the source novel around Christmas. The first thing I should say that it is significantly different than the book, sometimes in ways that make the ridiculous "whitewashing" complaints even more ridiculous than they were before (e.g. it's a four woman team in the book, but 5 in the movie, so it's not exactly a one to one comparison). That said, I enjoyed the movie more than the book, though it's not without criticism. The characters in the movie act more naturally and realistically than they do in the book, which also helps. However, the film is trying at times to be both monster movie and 2001: A Space Odyssey, and while the intelligent stuff largely holds up, I found the monster stuff a bit silly. But it does get better as it goes along. This might be a hard position to defend, and I'll have to think about it a bit more myself, but I think this might be Natalie Portman's best performance.

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Re: Annihilation (Alex Garland, 2018)

#5 Post by therewillbeblus » Fri Feb 23, 2018 9:24 am

I saw this last night, and mostly enjoyed it despite some pretty significant flaws (plot contrivances, some horrendous dialogue). Where the film succeeded for me was
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in choosing not to provide the audience with any cathartic explanation for the events that occur. In this way Garland makes the real "horror" of this film not the jump scares or set pieces - the beat/boar that has refracted its victim's scream/psychological state at death is especially spooky - but rather that we, as surrogates for the explorers, are transported into a space without predictable or explainable laws that govern it. Each event that occurs, how each character reacts to this world, and the effects that the world has on each character in an individually different, specific, and seemingly random way makes the film akin to a sort-of psychological version of The Thing. This nightmarish scenario worked for me, though I wouldn't be surprised if this gets one of those F Cinemascores due to exactly why this film is horrific, which directly clashes with audience expectations for some explanation. Ultimately I suspect people will be grasping at straws for meaning (the group I saw it with tried for an hour after the showing, to no avail) and this will frustrate many, but that's exactly what the characters in this film are doing unsuccessfully and this feels like the point. We're left with no concrete answers when we live in a world in which we feel safe *due* to expected scientific laws, and this is a more frightening scenario than most sci-fi/horror films present effectively.

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Annihilation (Alex Garland, 2018)

#6 Post by Mr Sausage » Fri Feb 23, 2018 11:34 am

The white-washing argument is pretty weird since, if I remember, no one in the novel is given any race at all. It's only in the second book that two characters have their racial backgrounds revealed by-the-by. If you assume the rest of the characters are as white as they act and talk, then in the movie a few white characters become non-white and a few non-white characters white, exactly as tho' the makers had only read the first novel and were imagining these nameless ciphers anew (which the writer/director claims indeed to be the case). People are complaining about something that mattered so little the book didn't bother to mention it.

But then I didn't get the fuss over Ghost in the Shell, either, considering that's a story about a woman whose identity is taken from her.

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Dr Amicus
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Re: Annihilation (Alex Garland, 2018)

#7 Post by Dr Amicus » Fri Feb 23, 2018 1:08 pm

I only read the book a couple of weeks back and didn't pick up on any mentions of race - I've subsequently seen the extracts "proving" the whitewashing case, and they're arguable at best. I've got the next two books sitting on my Kindle waiting to be read - I remember a couple of reviews saying the second book is the weakest part. Those who have read the later books, would you agree?

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Re: Annihilation (Alex Garland, 2018)

#8 Post by Big Ben » Fri Feb 23, 2018 1:12 pm

The blowback died down rather quickly because the screenplay was written and the film was cast and then the author made the clarification about race in the second book. In short even people who are usually very vocal about this sort of thing came to the correct conclusion that there was no malice involved here intentional or otherwise. In short it's fizzled into a non issue. Don't feel it's really worth discussing past that.

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Re: Annihilation (Alex Garland, 2018)

#9 Post by Mr Sausage » Fri Feb 23, 2018 2:56 pm

Dr Amicus wrote:I only read the book a couple of weeks back and didn't pick up on any mentions of race - I've subsequently seen the extracts "proving" the whitewashing case, and they're arguable at best. I've got the next two books sitting on my Kindle waiting to be read - I remember a couple of reviews saying the second book is the weakest part. Those who have read the later books, would you agree?
I actually preferred the second book to the others, probably for the very reasons everyone else found it disappointing: it's a character piece built on a power struggle between two employees of the Southern Reach, and so puts more focus on traditional character drama and the history and day-to-day workings of the Reach itself than on the sci-fi mysteries of Area X. That worked for me more than the minimalism of the first book or the jumping-about structure of the third. But then I wasn't really taken with the series as a whole, so maybe you shouldn't listen to me.

I'm definitely seeing the movie soon, tho'. The first book had a lot of potential it didn't quite use. Reading it, I kept thinking how suited it was for the big screen.

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Re: Annihilation (Alex Garland, 2018)

#10 Post by Satori » Fri Feb 23, 2018 5:25 pm

The second book is probably my favorite as well, and I think I liked the series a bit more than Mr. Sausage. I like the way it fills in the background of the Southern Reach, providing a larger context to the exploration in the first book. Since we follow a character who hasn't been inside the barrier, it also allows us to investigate Area X from a completely different perspective. I didn't like the third book as much as the other two, though, largely because of how unfocused it is, continually moving between different characters at different stages of the story.

I just returned from the film and enjoyed it as well. It does an admirable job recreating the "weird" feel of the book through inventive visuals, especially as the film progresses.

Quick question for those who have seen the film:
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What is up with the infinity tattoo? Does Natalie Portman's character always have it? At one point we see that Anya has one too, but this is after they are inside the shimmer. I don't think we see Anya's arm beforehand. But I also don't remember if Natalie Portman had it in the scenes in which she is in bed with her husband. So I'm wondering if this is something they all get while inside the shimmer, or if one of the characters somehow gives it to another.

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Re: Annihilation (Alex Garland, 2018)

#11 Post by John Cope » Fri Feb 23, 2018 8:59 pm

Dr Amicus wrote:I only read the book a couple of weeks back and didn't pick up on any mentions of race - I've subsequently seen the extracts "proving" the whitewashing case, and they're arguable at best. I've got the next two books sitting on my Kindle waiting to be read - I remember a couple of reviews saying the second book is the weakest part. Those who have read the later books, would you agree?
Well, I love the first book and pretty thoroughly hated the second one. Enough so actually that I have yet to complete the series. That second book just seemed like a slog to me and far too familiar in terms of concept and execution. It only picks up at the very end and by that point it's simply too late; and even then what picks up about it still isn't enough. For those who have read the entire series, is the final part closer in tone/theme to the first or second? Maybe some amalgamation of the two? I'm still trying to determine whether I should even attempt it.

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Re: Annihilation (Alex Garland, 2018)

#12 Post by Mr Sausage » Sat Feb 24, 2018 6:28 am

The third is more in line with the second. Structurally, it pings between three separate stories (pre-area-x, the Psychologist, and Control), but the narrative techniques are all out of the second book. There just isn't the same emphasis on atmosphere and unplaceable creepiness. You'd doubtless like it slightly more than the 2nd (most do), but you'll be disappointed if you're looking for a return to what you liked about that first book.

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Re: Annihilation (Alex Garland, 2018)

#13 Post by DarkImbecile » Fri Mar 02, 2018 5:48 pm

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For the first 80 minutes or so of Annihilation, I was on board but not enraptured. Very happy with some of the visual touches (the fungus man in the pool, for example) and the mind-warping mechanics of being in the Shimmer, less so with some of the dialogue and some of the flashbacks to Portman and Isaac’s domestic life.

Gina Rodriguez’ freakout and the second bear attack, though, was one of the better suspense sequences I’ve seen in some time, and then the entire Lighthouse section of the film was so hypnotic, bizarre, and committed to paying off the Lovecraftian cosmic horror of the premise in spades that I was completely won over by the time the psychedelic credits began to run. The escalating “what the fuck?” reactions of the packed audience at my screening made the second half of the movie one of my favorite theater experiences in a while.

The more time I’ve had to consider it, the more I think the marital elements I initially regarded as the less successful part of the film are metaphorically represented by the sci-if plot in some interesting and effective ways: Portman’s affair refracts their understanding of themselves and each other, and they come out on the other side changed to different degrees by it, after indulging in some of the self-destruction dynamics Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character articulates around the midway point. Looking at it this why doesn’t make some of the dialogue or its delivery in these sections any better, but it at least roots these portions more thoroughly in the core workings of Garland’s script.

Plenty to consider on repeat viewings, and I’m determined to see this at least once more in theaters, especially to see how the final sequence holds up.

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Re: Annihilation (Alex Garland, 2018)

#14 Post by Luke M » Fri Mar 02, 2018 10:26 pm

I just got out of this one and jumped on here to see the reactions. I’m a big meh on this one. It had some clever ideas and I liked how some of it was Stalker-esque. But the third act bothered me.
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The Michael Jackson Thriller music video final shots. Yikes.
I’m always up for movies deemed too intelligent (I still don’t understand Upstream Color) but I thought this was fairly light.

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Re: Annihilation (Alex Garland, 2018)

#15 Post by MongooseCmr » Sat Mar 03, 2018 7:05 pm

This did very little for me too. It's hard to convey, but there's a distinct lack of wonder and imagination on Garland's part in the way this world is conveyed that left me cold. Nothing in this is as haunting or exciting as the amazon looked in Lost City of Z, for instance, and Gray was much more restricted in what he could show. This is all very flat.

I'm never the kind of person to care about originality in movies, but it was really stunning to see this unfold as an endless series of ideas lifted from better genre movies. Not just the obvious Stalker setup, but Under the Skin, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Thing, Predator, Arrival, Apocalypse Now, 2001, and a five note alien theme out of Close Encounters of the Third Kind are just the ones that came to me offhand. I did love the part of the score during the finale, very reminiscent of Ben Frost's By the Throat

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Re: Annihilation (Alex Garland, 2018)

#16 Post by All the Best People » Tue Mar 06, 2018 5:00 am

Why the heck are people (not here) talking about this like it's some kind of art movie? It's a straightforward B-movie with gussied up effects and performances an design, so it does a pretty good job of it.

Re the tattoo question above:
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It's something you get inside, based on the mutations. When they discover the Thinged body in the pool of the military installation, you see the "tattoo" on the arm of sundered person. So I take it to show that she still is infected or is actually the double and certain aspects of her account were lies -- not sure it matters either way (the fact that they don't seem to realize Oscar Isaac isn't the original Oscar Isaac hints that maybe the flashbacked events are being shown to us in their reality and that she's leaving things out when recounting the story, which would then indicate she is the real Natalie and really did set the double on fire, but all this ambiguity just goes back to it's Thing roots).

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Re: Annihilation (Alex Garland, 2018)

#17 Post by mfunk9786 » Tue Mar 06, 2018 11:52 am

All the Best People wrote:Why the heck are people (not here) talking about this like it's some kind of art movie? It's a straightforward B-movie with gussied up effects and performances an design, so it does a pretty good job of it.
Poptimism, baby! Everything that comes out that's kinda sorta good is one of the greatest things ever made, a massive artistic achievement - particularly when it's in a genre that invites rabid online fandom like sci-fi. See also: Every comic book movie made in the last 10 years

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Re: Annihilation (Alex Garland, 2018)

#18 Post by All the Best People » Wed Mar 07, 2018 12:01 am

In thinking about and discussing this movie some today, I've come to like it a bit more. A question was raised as to a character's decision at the end:
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Why does Natalie Portman embrace the Double of Oscar Isaac? What does she want? I have been thing about it and have become convinced that JJL's speech about our self-destructive impulses being a product of biology rather than psychology is absolutely central to the movie and her decision.

JJL's proposition is not new, though the terminology is modernized. A duality and conflict between the Soul and Body is identified in several ancient traditions ("the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak"), perhaps most extremely by the Gnostics, who held that bodies were prisons in which our divine souls were trapped. But this notion that The Soul bears our noblest aspirations whereas The Body is the site of corruption and decay is a longstanding one.

And, in a secular, post-Freud world, can we not see the notion of The Soul still alive in that of The Psyche? JJL's character seems to hold that our intentions and motives may be good, but it is our biological status, our bodies, that doom us (just as her cancer-ridden body is dooming her and her body on a literally biological level).

This notion should of course resonate with Natalie, whose sin against Oscar was what? Biological -- a sin of and against the body. She even tells her paramour straight out that she hates him, and her paramour maintains that he loves his wife. Their exchange is entirely biological and not psychological. And, for this, Natalie believes she "owes" Oscar.

So, when she has the opportunity to embrace Double Oscar, she does -- because, from a biological perspective, it is really him, as it would seem he carries Oscar's DNA and is in fact his Body. Thus she can make recompense for the sin she committed, which was a biological sin of The Body and not a psychological or emotional sin of The Soul or Psyche. She can pay her debt after all.

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Re: Annihilation (Alex Garland, 2018)

#19 Post by Persona » Wed Mar 07, 2018 1:43 pm

LOVED this.

My friend went so far as to call it possibly his new favorite movie, and that dude knows his movies. He called it a "Deleuzian fever dream."

My less high-brow reference point is like a well-funded, neo-Fulci directing a script that Cronenberg wrote right after watching Star Trek III for the first time, haha. With pinches of The Thing and Tarkovsky. So it was right up my alley.

The whole fact that the movie pulls from a LOT of disparate genres and influences and ideas and kind of swirls them around into this recombinant experience, I mean, it's very on brand with the film's central conceit, I guess a bit of a metatextual element working there to go with the film's provocative text and rich subtext (yet, it is a gussied up B-movie, which I am down with, but it's also more than that). The end result still felt cohesive and effective to me, and in its own way, fresh. The movie really has some unique atmosphere and design elements to it and I can't say I've ever seen anything like that incredible
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soul-sucking skull bear
before.

The books are okay, I enjoyed them, but this reinvents the narrative of the first book almost to the same extent that Blade Runner reworked Dick's novel. To similar success. A bold and really quite stunning adaptation of a difficult text to try to translate to film. This was the best movie I have seen in the theater since Scorsese's Silence and most definitely the best genre movie I've seen since Fury Road.

Also, some really fantastic criticism has been inspired by the film. Greatly enjoyed the insight in these pieces:

http://www.filmfreakcentral.net/ffc/201 ... .html#more" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
https://newrepublic.com/article/147201/ ... cronenberg" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
http://www.vulture.com/2018/03/annihila ... ssion.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Annihilation (Alex Garland, 2018)

#20 Post by Luke M » Wed Mar 07, 2018 9:51 pm

mfunk9786 wrote:
All the Best People wrote:Why the heck are people (not here) talking about this like it's some kind of art movie? It's a straightforward B-movie with gussied up effects and performances an design, so it does a pretty good job of it.
Poptimism, baby! Everything that comes out that's kinda sorta good is one of the greatest things ever made, a massive artistic achievement - particularly when it's in a genre that invites rabid online fandom like sci-fi. See also: Every comic book movie made in the last 10 years
Seen this happen to some extent with Wrinkle In Time already. The future of film commentary is prioritizing a film’s ambitions over whether or not it’s actually good.

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Re: Annihilation (Alex Garland, 2018)

#21 Post by cdnchris » Wed Mar 07, 2018 10:11 pm

It has a Stalker-ish vibe and I liked it over all but at best I could only call it a well made thriller or sci-fi film (so basically, like Ex Machina). There's some things in it I'm sure I'll pick up on repeat viewings
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The tattoo that seems to move around between people
but I doubt I'll find much else in it.

Amusingly my wife picked this, saying she wanted to see something a bit more "heady" and "thoughtful," which is totally not her (not judging, I actually wanted to see Game Night). When we came out she said it "was surprisingly straight forward" and she was expecting more. This is coming from the person who wants to see Rampage and I am totally judging her there.

I will give the film credit for the imagery, though. There were some great looking things in this. But I also have to give it credit for one of the more fucked up things I've seen in a film recently:
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the "bear" screaming/roaring "help me!"

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Re: Annihilation (Alex Garland, 2018)

#22 Post by Persona » Thu Mar 08, 2018 1:46 pm

cdnchris wrote:It has a Stalker-ish vibe and I liked it over all but at best I could only call it a well made thriller or sci-fi film (so basically, like Ex Machina). There's some things in it I'm sure I'll pick up on repeat viewings
SpoilerShow
The tattoo that seems to move around between people
but I doubt I'll find much else in it.

Amusingly my wife picked this, saying she wanted to see something a bit more "heady" and "thoughtful," which is totally not her (not judging, I actually wanted to see Game Night). When we came out she said it "was surprisingly straight forward" and she was expecting more. This is coming from the person who wants to see Rampage and I am totally judging her there.

I will give the film credit for the imagery, though. There were some great looking things in this. But I also have to give it credit for one of the more fucked up things I've seen in a film recently:
SpoilerShow
the "bear" screaming/roaring "help me!"
Yeah, I think it is pretty straightforward narratively, which is not a bad thing, in my opinion. In that regard it is very much in The Thing or Alien arena of sci-fi adventure horror. Similar to those films there's a bit of an unknown element going on that's messing with our characters and in turn the audience, but really the core narrative is simple and straight ahead. Not really sure where all the remarks of "MIND TRIP" or "WHAT DID I JUST SEE" are coming from other than that the sci-fi concept and the way it is presented in the film might be out there for your average moviegoer and I guess just the fact that the film doesn't bother with exposition and dialogue in its arresting climax.

Still, I think it's a thematically rich film (see: Chaw's review on Film Freak Central) with some truly wonderful art design and technical credits and an incredible attention to detail in its production and storytelling, and that goes a long way for me when combined with a genre I already enjoy. Need to figure out a way to make it to the theater again before it's gone as the set-pieces, while few and brief, were so phenomenal in that large, loud format... and I've read a lot of theories and observations that I'm itching to pick up more on in repeat viewings.

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Re: Annihilation (Alex Garland, 2018)

#23 Post by jbeall » Sat Mar 10, 2018 1:06 am

Persona wrote:LOVED this.

My friend went so far as to call it possibly his new favorite movie, and that dude knows his movies. He called it a "Deleuzian fever dream."
I won't question whether or not your friend knows his movies, but "Deleuzian fever dream" is a pretty damning review in my book. (For the record, I loathe Deleuze and Guattari; just because they had the temerity to write while on acid doesn't make what they had to say particularly interesting. Two of the biggest academic charlatans of the latter 20th century, imo...) But out of curiosity, did your friend elaborate on what made it a Deleuzian fever dream?

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Re: Annihilation (Alex Garland, 2018)

#24 Post by mfunk9786 » Sat Mar 10, 2018 2:58 am

mfunk9786 wrote:
All the Best People wrote:Why the heck are people (not here) talking about this like it's some kind of art movie? It's a straightforward B-movie with gussied up effects and performances an design, so it does a pretty good job of it.
Poptimism, baby! Everything that comes out that's kinda sorta good is one of the greatest things ever made, a massive artistic achievement - particularly when it's in a genre that invites rabid online fandom like sci-fi. See also: Every comic book movie made in the last 10 years
Well, fuck me I guess, because I loved this film. I’m going to be thinking about it nonstop in the days and weeks to come, but ultimately it carries that same “I don’t care if this doesn’t completely work intellectually” level of sheer visual and psychological pleasure that Interstellar did for me. And everything mysterious about the plot only served to reduce my blood temperature an extra degree or two to ensure that when something startling did occur (or get played on video within the film), it made me that much more succeptible to wanting to hit the ceiling with the sole propulsion of my own exhaustion of pressurized dread.

It’s also one of the most visually captivating films in recent years - the soap bubble effect and the way it reflects off of surfaces and puddles and eyeglasses... a lesser filmmaker and cinematographer would have turned this into a goopy CGI slop. The restraint, wonder, and control of tone Garland exhibits throughout belies the arrival of a great, great director.
Persona wrote:My less high-brow reference point is like a well-funded, neo-Fulci directing a script that Cronenberg wrote right after watching Star Trek III for the first time, haha. With pinches of The Thing and Tarkovsky. So it was right up my alley.
Is this an excerpt from Ready Player One?

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Re: Annihilation (Alex Garland, 2018)

#25 Post by Persona » Sat Mar 10, 2018 11:50 am

mfunk9786 wrote:
Persona wrote:My less high-brow reference point is like a well-funded, neo-Fulci directing a script that Cronenberg wrote right after watching Star Trek III for the first time, haha. With pinches of The Thing and Tarkovsky. So it was right up my alley.
Is this an excerpt from Ready Player One?
Oh man, that does kind of read like RPO, doesn't it? Damn. How awful of me. Haha.

Anyways, glad you loved the film!

jbeall, my friend didn't really elaborate on the Deleuzian comment much (I also went overboard on the "dude knows his movies" comment, he's just into movies as much as your average film buff, I guess). He's getting his doctorate in philosophy so maybe he just has Deleuze on the brain at the moment. Here was his whole comment:

"I think ANNIHILATION (2018) might be my favorite movie.

I was not ready for this....recombinant Deleuzian fever dream choreographed to amazing music and spiked with badass chicks shooting mutant gators in the face. Life refracted through its own iterations, crystallizing the force of variation. What an astonishing creation."

So I don't know if that clarifies his take at all. Probably not.

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