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Movie Night – Reviewer not impressed with ‘Annihilation’

By Bradley Griffith

Many people rely on the trailers for movies to decide whether a movie is worth their time and money (except for people like you who read these reviews). Usually your first instinct is the correct one. I thought the trailer for “Annihilation” looked terrible. I should have trusted my gut.

As the movie opens Lena (Natalie Portman) is being debriefed in a secure location by government representatives. Lena is under quarantine. Her interrogator is decked out in full hazmat gear to safely talk to her. Lena tells her story about how she made it to this room.

Lena’s husband, Kane (Oscar Isaac), is a soldier in a United States Army special forces unit. He is called away to a location that he can’t reveal on a mission that he can’t speak of, even to his own wife. Kane doesn’t return from this mission. Despite Lena’s best efforts, she can’t get any information about her husband from the military. 

Nearly a year after he disappeared, Kane shows up at their home out of the blue. He begins acting very strange. He can’t remember where he went or how he made it home. He suddenly becomes very ill. He and Lena are in the back of an ambulance headed to a hospital when they are forced off the road and taken to a secret government facility known only as Area X.

Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is a psychologist and is in charge of Area X. She explains to Lena that Kane had been sent with an entire unit into something known as the shimmer. A meteorite had impacted at a lighthouse near the coast. Shortly thereafter a shining mist-like phenomenon began to spread with the lighthouse at its center. They called this area the shimmer.

Kane’s team had been sent into the shimmer and only Kane returned. Lena, a biologist and former soldier, volunteers to enter the shimmer with the next team of explorers. She wants to investigate the shimmer and maybe find a cure for her husband’s illness.

Natalie Portman is such a good actor that it’s hard to believe that she was in such a bad movie. In fact, from Oscar Isaac to Tessa Thompson to Gina Rodriguez, there are several fine actors in this bad movie. Jennifer Jason Leigh turned in an awful performance at the emotionless and rigid Dr. Ventress. Her acting was the very definition of a wooden performance.

The parts of the story described above may seem somewhat intriguing, but trust me when I tell you that “Annihilation” goes downhill as soon as they enter the shimmer, the part where the movie should get better. I know it’s based on a popular book that is supposedly beloved a by a certain portion of the population, but the plot goes haywire once the team goes into the shimmer. The movie become ridiculous and the special effects of what they encounter in the shimmer were terrible.

The filmmakers seemed to want to create a certain tone that lasted throughout the movie. The background music and soundtrack were unusual and, I suppose, were intended to intensify the vibe of the movie. The vibe was one of trepidation and lurking menace, a strategy that works well when the movie follows through on its promise, unlike “Annihilation.”

The climax of the movie, which occurs chronologically before Lena is telling her story about exploring the shimmer, is one of the strangest things I have ever seen in a movie. I won’t spoil it for those of you who want to waste your money renting this movie at home, but you’ll know it when you see it.

I read one article that listed “Annihilation” as one of the top 10 movies of the year, an honor I would not bestow on this movie if only five films had been released this year. If you are a true hard-core sci-fi fan you may enjoy “Annihilation,” everyone else should stay far away.

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Grade: D-

Rated R for violence, bloody images, language, and some sexuality.