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Review: 'Annihilation'

Alex Garland returns with this mind-bending sci-fi that will certainly challenge you.

Now I would have normally talked about director Alex Garland and this being his first film since Ex Machina, as well as talking about his writing career.

However, it is the film's distribution that has been making the headlines. Apart from USA and Canada, this film is surprisingly getting a Netflix release. Apparently, this was due to the studio executives believing this to be "too intellectual" and "too complicated" for cinema audiences. I find this to be just pure nonsense as many brain-busters in the past have not only got a theatrical release, but a highly successful feedback from general audiences.

So adding to those reasons for its distribution, that just enhanced my already high anticipation for this as well as myself really liking Ex Machina. I did have a feeling that this could be another sci-fi hit with many aspects to think about.

I turned out to be fairly correct, and yet still felt unprepared for what I actually got.

From the very start, I certainly got a similar feeling that I got from Arrival. So I was already stoked as to what was to come. There are some nice little nuggets that the camera focuses on, but you're not sure why at first. The first two-thirds do go at a slow-burning pace, but the strong and colorful visuals and high levels of imagination kept me engrossed, whilst also getting to grips to ideas this film was presenting.

I think once it got really creepy, that is when I started really enjoying this. Then like most mind-bending films, the final act is what is going to make or break the film for everyone. For me, this was the peak of my enjoyment. There is a lot to get to grips with and I was seeing many comparisons with various sci-fi stories that helped contribute my own theories to what was happening. Then the ending that is most certainly open up for interpretation just opened up more windows of possibilities.

I feel that the aspect that people will get the most out of is the concept. A lot of you will probably know that I love a film with ideas and that can be real think-pieces that you are still undecided on long after seeing it.

I saw many topics being covered, such as our levels of perception, identity, the differences between suicide and self-destruction and many other things.

I also liked that this reasons for the actions happening in this film may also end up happening for no reason. That therefore also covers the topic of the randomness of the universe.

The cast is pretty solid all-round, but none were what I would call award-worthy. Natalie Portman carries the film well and makes us become her character trying to work out what is going her. Her strength really shines in the second half especially. Another good performance was Oscar Isaac. While he is not in the movie for long, his contribution was very memorable.

I felt Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, and Tessa Thompson contributed well when required.

I have to give huge props to the technical teams in the making of this movie. It has very colourful visuals that whilst I love seeing it, I was also gutted I would not be able to see this on the big screen. The environment managed to be both beautiful and menacing at the same time. You will notice that in the film with a lot of things, and not just the landscape.

The sound design and score by Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury are pretty cool.

There were no real notable negatives as so much of it was open for interpretation. However, there was a minor sub-plot that did not really add to the story, but I get why it was there.

I got a lot out of this and I can definitely see myself liking this the more times I watch it. This is because I am not quite going nuts for it just yet. I think it's because on paper it would sound a lot better. But the slow-burning execution of the first two acts were pretty good, and not as completely gripping or captivating as it's finale.

From a film-making and story-telling point of view, I was attached more to the concept rather than the characters. It almost hits every point that its trying to cover in a big way. So I think while it probably will just miss out on my top films of the year, its ideas and deep-thinking themes will still see me give it an exceptional score and probably become the film I have thought about the most from 2018.

The first two acts are a pretty good jungle adventure with some psychological segments. Then the final act really tests your level of imagination and experience in the sci-fi genre and what you can make of it.

If I had to give similarities to other films, then this feels like the Prometheus film we should have got. I also saw a lot of similarities to Arrival as well as Aliens, Predator, the Mirkwood scenes in The Hobbit, various Doctor Who episodes but one in particular and even Jurassic Park III, Evolution, and The Prestige.

I can see this film beginning lots of discussions on what everyone got out of it, particularly its themes, messages, and theories to the ending. I think even if you didn't get the ending, the strong visuals will nevertheless captivate you and will make you want to understand more about it.

If you feel stupid for not getting it, don't worry, because I'm pretty sure no one has totally got it. Plus, that means the film has done what it was supposed to do, and that is challenge your mind.

This is the type of film that you should take a toilet break beforehand as you need to keep up with it, and it won't wait for you to catch-up.

Rating: 8/10

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