Thoughts on “Annihilation”

Last time was “Tomb Raider”, and the last movie in that three movie pack was “Annihilation”.  Now, I do like Natalie Portman, and so I saw this movie a few times for relatively cheap and was tempted to buy it.  But the focus in the description on the all-female team — which the movie would have to justify if it wanted to make a big deal out of it like the description was trying to do — and the overall idea that Natalie Portman’s character was going in to find out what happened to her husband made me decide that the movie was probably not going to be very good.  I didn’t realize that the movie was one of the ones in the pack until I looked to see how long it was and realized who was in it, and so out of all of these movies this is the one that I approached with the most trepidation.

The movie doesn’t actually justify the all-female team that was sent in the second time, at least not as far as I recall.  But that’s okay because the all-female team isn’t really a big part of the plot either, so I have no idea what the description was going on about.  However, the movie fumbles things a bit with its framing.  Essentially, the movie is a collection of flashbacks.  The overall framing device is that Natalie Portman’s character has returned from the mission itself, and was the only one to return.  As part of this, there are flashbacks to her life with her husband to build up their relationship and give us an emotional connection to the two of them.  However, the main reason for a framing device where we are told about a disaster is to build in a mystery of what happened and how things ended up that badly.  But the world that they enter is quickly revealed as an extremely dangerous one that messes with their minds (although it isn’t clear why it does that).  So, yeah, we can pretty much figure out that all of the others will die and that the previous expedition was lost the same way.  The real mystery, then, is how her husband and how she managed to get back at all, which leads to the real twist of the movie.  But we didn’t really need that framing device to build that mystery, and neither the framing device, nor the flashbacks, nor the expedition itself actually set up for the twist itself.

And the twist itself is ambiguous (seemingly deliberately so) and not very interesting.  Towards the end, we find evidence that at least some of the creatures can duplicate people they come across.  One definitely duplicated her husband, and there is a duplicate of her that she fights, and the impression is that she defeats it.  Now, one of the reasons that she entered the portal into the other world at all was because her husband was falling ill and was clearly dying.  The video she sees showing the duplication of her husband has one of them essentially kill himself, which is implied to be the duplicate.  When she returns, the portal is closed and her husband recovers, but when she goes to see him he asks a question that the duplicate was directed to ask her, implying that he’s the duplicate.  But then there’s no reason given for why he was sick when the portal was open and recovered when it was closed, which would suggest that he was the husband and infected with something from the portal.  Maybe.  And then she doesn’t reply, but then hugs him, suggesting that if he’s a duplicate, she’s a duplicate as well.  But twists that are that ambiguous are at the very least very risky.  The best twists are the ones that we don’t see coming but completely understand and then kick ourselves later for not seeing it and not thinking of it.  So this twist is far too ambiguous to be interesting.  Now, you can have good movies with ambiguous endings, but those have to be pulled off very carefully to avoid the ending feeling unsatisfying.  “Annihilation”, however, doesn’t do anything to make this ending follow from what happened before or prepare us in any way for it.  So the ending comes across as more puzzling than interesting.

The rest of the movie is loose action, and so can’t save it and, again, doesn’t fit with the more artistic ending.

So, now that I’ve finished the pack, let me talk about whether or not I’d watch these movies again.

I wouldn’t watch Annihilation again.  The movie itself isn’t very interesting and is fairly slow-paced, and the ending is so ambiguous as to be confusing and unsatisfying.

I also wouldn’t watch Tomb Raider again.  The movie lacks an interesting and sympathetic main character because this version of Tomb Raider’s main personality traits are being arrogant and being reckless, neither of which make for a character I want to watch.  There were lots of elements that they could have used to make her more interesting as a person, and they didn’t use any of them.

I could potentially watch Arrival again.  The attempt at doing something like real science is somewhat interesting, and it might be nice to see if there are more hints at the future in the other parts of the movie.  However, it’s not that interesting a movie in and of itself.

Since these are all in the same pack, this means that it goes in my box in the closet to potentially watch again at some point instead of in the box to potentially sell at some point.

Next up … I have another three-pack of movies, and so will do the same thing for them as I did for this one.

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