'Annihilation' - Movie Review

Jeff VanderMeer wrote the book of the same name that this is based on. I have mixed feelings about his writing: it's brilliant, but sometimes too unpleasant for me to enjoy. The exception was Shriek: An Afterword which is psychotically weird and utterly mind-blowing and features prose that's so dense I had to read at about a quarter my normal speed to make sense of it. Not for everyone, but incredibly vivid and really fascinating.

And Alex Garland, who directed this movie, directed my favourite SF movie of the last decade: "Ex Machina", which was every bit as thought-provoking as VanderMeer's writing.

With expectations like that, I was pretty much guaranteed to be disappointed.

The movie is set a few years from now: a place has appeared in the U.S. called "The Shimmer." The U.S. military is trying to keep it under wraps, but they have to evacuate people because no one who goes in ever comes out. Natalie Portman is Lena, and her husband went in a year ago. He's presumed dead, but reappears. But he's in extremely poor health. So Lena volunteers to go in with an all-female team of scientists (for which she's surprisingly well qualified).

It reminded me of nothing so much as Andrei Tarkovsky's "Stalker." They share a poorly described zone, a group of people of dubious intentions and often incomprehensible motivations, and a surreal story more interested in social commentary than in the "science" part of "science fiction." (It's considered a classic but I'm not a fan.) I'm pleased to see I'm not the only person who has made a connection to "Stalker."