Review Roundup: Critics Weigh In On ANNIHILATION
Based on Jeff VanderMeer's best-selling Southern Reach Trilogy, Annihilation stars Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny and Oscar Isaac. It was written and directed by Alex Garland (Ex Machina, 28 Days Later).
The film hits theaters today, so lets see what the critics think:
Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter: "Annihilation is a ferocious, feral, female-centric update of fearsome monster classics like The Thing and Alien. In the much-anticipated follow-up to his auspicious debut feature Ex Machina four years ago, writer-director Alex Garland shows an unerring hand in building a sense of unease about what evil lurks in a forest that's been taken over by some kind of "other," and then making it pay off. Fright fans as well as connoisseurs of seriously good filmmaking should turn this finely tuned thriller into a much-needed hit for Paramount and, as the remaining two entries in Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach Trilogy have already been published, the studio should get the next film installment rolling post haste."
Haleigh Foutch, Collider: "This is the top-line story, and one that will thrill genre fans looking for some bravura sci-fi storytelling. Garland pulls freely from VanderMeer's novel, but fair warning to book fans out there - this is not a straight adaptation, so go in with an open mind. However, what Garland captures so gorgeously is the slow-brewing intrigue and terror that seems to capture the whole of the human experience; the biological, the psychological, and the spiritual. Annihilation targets that gestalt with a heady brew of wonder and horror, and reuniting with a host of his Ex Machina collaborators, including composers Geoff Barrow and Ben Salibury, production designer Mark Digby, and cinematographer Rob Hardy, Garland creates a vision of spectacular exploration that is, disquietingly, both familiar and otherworldly in equal measure."
Tasha Robinson, The Verge: "There certainly are surprises in Annihilation's slow, creepy march toward the sole-survivor situation laid out in the opening scene. Some even come through conventional action sequences. But mostly, Garland builds up the uncanniness and the dread factor of the world inside The Shimmer. There are specific principles at work in the phenomena Lena's troop finds, but they unfold in a variety of quietly unsettling ways, suggesting a wide range of potential ugly deaths ahead. Annihilation follows the familiar form of Science fiction horror found in films from Alien to The Cloverfield Paradox, with a cast of characters in isolation, slowly being picked off by a force they don't understand. But Garland's film more closely resembles Denis Villeneuve's recent Science fiction hit Arrival, another slow, airless, fascinating film pocked with moments of sudden explosive action. Like Arrival (or Ex Machina, for that matter), Annihilation is a thoughtful, philosophical movie, more interested in the nature of humanity and the urges that drive us rather than in who lives or dies."
Peter Debruge, Variety: "Skipping over their first hours inside the Shimmer, the movie never offers a satisfying explanation as to why they can't leave or communicate with the outside world. But Garland gets away with it, since we're as curious as his characters are to know what the lighthouse holds. Compared to their single-minded commanding officer, Dr. Ventress (a no-nonsense Jennifer Jason Leigh), and the three thick-skinned, hyper-capable military women along for the trip (Gina Rodriguez, Tuva Novotny, and Tessa Thompson), Lena at first looks like she might be the weak link, only to find that she's a resilient soldier-scientist in her own right, having previously served seven years in the Army - and no slouch with a rapid-fire cannon either."
Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly: "The original 1979 Alien had its immortal tagline, "In space, no one can hear you scream." In Annihilation, it's the Shimmer. (Though someone will definitely hear you if you SCREAM in a CROWDED theater, it turns out.) Alex Garland's astonishing new movie owes at least some small debt to that sci-fi classic, but it also holds echoes of another more recent touchstone: 2016's spooky-cerebral alien-invasion drama Arrival. Much like it, Annihilation begins in cool-toned blues and grays, toggling between the present-day classroom where biology professor Lena (Natalie Portman) numbly instructs her college students in the basics of cell division, and intimate flashbacks to the bed she shared with her military-officer husband Kane (Oscar Isaac). Called out on an mystery mission he can't tell her anything about, Kane promptly loses contact and falls off the map; missing, presumed dead. Twelve months later he returns without warning or explanation, but what should be a blissful reunion goes wrong immediately in almost every way."
Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair: "This is a serious, considered film. Though loaded with aesthetic splendor-matching the gorgeous photography is Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury's transfixing score-little in the film feels like an empty flourish. Garland's disposition is graver, more particular than that, and this makes the film an almost painfully enveloping experience, the landscape so thoroughly realized that it offers near total immersion. I left Annihilation feeling RATTLED and exhausted-but good rattled, good exhausted. It's rare that a studio movie dares to engage with an audience in such a somber and probing and insistent way, affording us so little time to breathe or destress or clear our heads."