To dare is to dream: Annihilation is a breath of fresh, dare-I-say shimmering air
I spent Saturday afternoon at the cinema in what became a cure-for-the-itch occasion. You know the sort. At some point during the film, you notice that you’ve sunk into your seat in a state of deep contentment. This is juxtaposed with sudden lurches out of said seat when thrilling moments arise. Total engagement and engrossment, a rare combination in these days of “Everybody’s playing the same song”, set to film stock. Wait. They don’t really use that anymore, either.
I’ve never understood film reviews riddled with spoilers, so I’ll begin with the thought that carried me out the door at the end of the film and through the rest of the evening. Annihilation is one of the most refreshing meditations upon the future of humanity since Arrival. Like that brilliant film, there are no villains in Alex Garland’s newest flick, one that he’s described as a “dream” of the book it is obliquely based upon.
That dream-like quality is quickly evident in the film’s pacing, and it matches its surreal content. This is just a tale about people placed in a context that quickly pushes them to their limits. What could be more human than that? Garland is quickly becoming that rare category of director whose work I attend with bated breath. He melds high-octane action with cerebral plot points made refreshingly accessible. Like 28 Days Later and Sunshine, both of which Garland wrote, Annihilation is a sci-fi thriller populated with that quintessential component that makes film resonate: people. (Duh)
Annihilation reminds me of something the great Miyazaki once wrote, about Princess Mononoke—another film that explores humanity’s interaction with nature. There can be no happy ending between humanity and nature, Miyazaki said, but that does not make either side evil.
Which is why I spilled out of Annihilation in a daze. For the shock of its finale, what will stick with me most is a human scream, expelled by something you’ll never see coming. You know it when you hear it. It’s harrowing and primal, but in keeping with the film, far from evil. It’s just something that happened, and we as humans have to decide how we will react.