I watched Annihilation the other night. Horror/thrillers where the cast gets picked off one by one until only the protagonist is left standing is not usually my jam but I really wanted to like this one. I wanted to like it because the core cast was entirely female in a genre and narrative structure that is dominated by men.
I didn’t like it.
This has nothing to do with the gender of the cast and a lot to do with the narrative itself really pissing me off.
*The following rant may contain SPOILERS*
At the start I had high hopes. Seeing Arthurian and fairy tale tropes in the quest to reach the centre of a mysterious and dangerous forest (known in the film as the shimmer). I thought there was a nice role reversal in affect with the comatose husband as the sleeping princess and Natalie Portman as the questing hero. Depth was added to the role reversal through the complexity of their relationship although this was my first disappointment. Lena (Natalie Portman) has been having an affair. This is hinted at as being Kane’s (her husband) motivation for entering the shimmer, and effective suicide mission. Lena’s motivation is thus not because she loves him but because she owes him.
The replacement of the team of fighters with a team of scientists is another disruption of the genre stereotypes that really tickled me. But not enough time was given to truly developing these women. Their motivations for being there were all summed up in a quick scene of exposition and then they failed to live up to them.
The action scenes were solid and the performances were on point (the cast was superb) but ultimately none of it matters because the denouement cancels everything out. I’ll try not to get too specific, but it’s one of those endings where they try to make you think one thing but then hint at another (Inception style only not as good). If what’s suggested by the final frame is true then the whole story is completely pointless.
I really wanted to like Annihilation. It had a lot going for it. But, it the end, I just didn’t.