Annihilation (film)

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Annihilation
Five women, all armed, in a forested area
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAlex Garland
Screenplay byAlex Garland
Based onAnnihilation
by Jeff VanderMeer
Produced by
Starring
CinematographyRob Hardy
Edited byBarney Pilling
Music by
Production
companies
Distributed by
Release dates
  • February 13, 2018 (2018-02-13) (Regency Village Theater)
  • February 23, 2018 (2018-02-23) (United States)
  • March 12, 2018 (2018-03-12) (United Kingdom)
Running time
115 minutes[2]
Countries
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$40–55 million[3][4][1][5]
Box office$43.1 million[1]

Annihilation is a 2018 science fiction psychological horror film written and directed by Alex Garland, based on the 2014 novel of the same name by Jeff VanderMeer. It stars Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny, and Oscar Isaac. The story follows a group of explorers who enter "The Shimmer", a mysterious quarantined zone of mutating plants and animals caused by an alien presence.

Annihilation was released theatrically in the United States by Paramount Pictures on February 23, 2018, and in China on April 13, 2018.[6] It grossed $43 million against a production budget between $40–55 million, becoming a box office flop. It was released digitally by Netflix in a number of other countries on March 12, 2018. According to Empire magazine, the film addresses "depression, grief, and the human propensity for self-destruction".[7]

Plot[edit]

Lena, a biology professor and army veteran, lost her husband Kane after he deployed on a special forces mission. She believes Kane accepted a suicide mission because she cheated on him.

Kane suddenly reappears at home, then starts convulsing. Lena calls an ambulance but government forces divert it to a secret facility. A psychologist named Dr. Ventress tells her a mysterious zone called the "Shimmer" has been expanding from a fallen meteorite for three years. Kane's team explored the Shimmer, but only he returned, and he is now comatose. She wants Lena to join a new expedition to the lighthouse where the meteorite landed. Lena joins to find answers for Kane's coma. Ventress also recruits the physicist Josie Radek, the geomorphologist Cassie "Cass" Sheppard, and the paramedic Anya Thorensen.

After entering the Shimmer, the group wakes up and realizes they already travelled several days but have no memory of the journey. All wildlife in the Shimmer has mutated. An alligator with shark teeth attacks Josie but the group saves her.

The group reaches a military base. They find a video of Kane cutting open a soldier to reveal moving intestines, and later find the soldier’s corpse overgrown by alien fungi. At night, a mutant bear kills Cass.

The survivors discover plants shaped like humans, leading Josie to theorize the Shimmer distorts information like a prism refracts light, intermixing the wildlife's DNA. Anya realizes they are also mutating and ties up the others in a panic. Anya then hears Cass's voice and runs to it, only to be devoured by the mutant bear. Josie frees herself and shoots the bear. Ventress reveals she has cancer and leaves hurriedly for the lighthouse so she can study it before she dies or mutates. Josie realizes the Shimmer mixed pieces of the dying Cass into the bear, and willfully mutates into a plant to avoid a similar fate.

Lena arrives at the lighthouse and discovers a video camera next to a burnt corpse. The footage shows Kane telling the cameraperson to find Lena, then killing himself with a phosphorus grenade. The footage then shows that the cameraman shares Kane's face. Lena descends into the meteor crater and finds Ventress, who explains the Shimmer will eventually swallow everything. She disintegrates into a pulsing Mandelbulb that absorbs blood from Lena, creating a humanoid that mimics Lena’s motions. Unable to escape the creature, Lena tricks it into accepting a phosphorus grenade as it transforms into her doppelgänger. Lena flees, but her doppelgänger calmly allows the grenade to burn it along with the lighthouse. The Shimmer collapses.

Back at the facility, Lena tells an interrogator that the Shimmer did not seek to destroy, but to renew. She asks Kane, who is now awake, if he is really Kane; he replies, "I don't think so". He asks if she is really Lena, but she does not answer. They embrace and their irises shimmer.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

Paramount Pictures and Scott Rudin acquired the film rights to Annihilation, the then-unpublished first novel in Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach Trilogy, on March 26, 2013.[8] Rudin and Eli Bush were set to produce the film,[8] and Alex Garland, who had previously worked with Rudin and Bush on Ex Machina, was hired to write and direct the film in October 2014.[9]

Garland explained that his adaptation was necessarily based on only the first novel in the trilogy: "At the point I started working on Annihilation, there was only one of the three books. I knew that it was planned as a trilogy by the author, but there was only the manuscript for the first book. I really didn't think too much about the trilogy side of it."[10]

Garland said his adaptation is "a memory of the book", rather than book-referenced screenwriting, with the intention of capturing the "dreamlike nature" and tone[11][12][13] of his experience reading VanderMeer's novel. Rather than trying to directly adapt the book, Garland deliberately took the story in his own direction, with VanderMeer's permission. Garland did not read the other two books when they arrived, as he was concerned he would need to revise his script. Others informed him of the elements of the books, and he expressed surprise at some of the similarities.[14]

Some critics have noted the film has similarities with the science-fiction novel Roadside Picnic and its 1979 movie adaptation, Stalker.[15][16][17][18] While Nerdist Industries' Kyle Anderson noted even stronger resemblance with the 1927 short story "The Colour Out of Space" by H. P. Lovecraft[19] (also adapted for the screen on several occasions, including as Color Out of Space in 2019), about a meteorite that lands in a swamp and unleashes a mutagenic plague,[20] Chris McCoy of the Memphis Flyer found the film (Annihilation) reminiscent both of "The Colour Out of Space", as well as the novel (Roadside Picnic) and its film adaptation (Stalker).[20] VanderMeer stated that the original novel "is 100% NOT a tribute to Picnic/Stalker",[21] but rather drew influences from works by J.G. Ballard and Franz Kafka.[22]

Casting[edit]

The first cast member to join Annihilation was Natalie Portman, who entered negotiations with the studio in May 2015, under the agreement that production not begin until 2016.[23] Once Portman had agreed to play the biologist, the next cast member added was Gina Rodriguez, who entered talks with Paramount in November 2015.[24] By that point, production was set to begin in early 2016, a decision made to accommodate Portman's schedule but which also fell during Rodriguez's break from filming Jane the Virgin.[25] Oscar Isaac joined the cast in March 2016 as the husband of Portman's character; he had previously worked with Garland in Ex Machina.[26] By the end of April, Tessa Thompson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and David Gyasi were also attached to the project.[27]

In 2018, Garland was criticized by the Media Action Network for Asian Americans and the American Indians in Film and Television advocacy groups for whitewashing the roles played by Portman and Leigh. In the Southern Reach novels, the Biologist is described as being of Asian descent, while the Psychologist is mixed-race and half-Indigenous; Portman is Jewish and Leigh is white.[28] Garland responded to the accusations by saying that there was "nothing cynical or conspiratorial" about the casting, and that the book in which the characters' races are revealed, Authority, had not been released by the time Annihilation had been written and cast.[29] Portman also responded to the controversy, saying that she did not know her character had a specific ethnicity until whitewashing concerns were raised, and that Garland had intentionally not spoken to VanderMeer about the other two Southern Reach novels because he wanted to focus on adapting Annihilation.[30]

Filming[edit]

Principal photography was underway by April 2016, when actor David Gyasi was added to the cast.[31] Lighthouse Pictures Ltd started location filming in late April in South Forest, Windsor Great Park.[32][33] Some test shooting had already been done in St. Marks, Florida, but the vegetation in the area turned out to be too dense to give any depth perception on screen.[34] On May 9, 2016, cinematographer Rob Hardy began sharing pictures from the set of the film.[35] On July 13 and 14, filming took place at Holkham Pines in North Norfolk.[36] Shooting was completed that month.[4]

The visual effect team was made up of many of Garland's collaborators from his previous film, Ex Machina, including VFX Supervisor Andrew Whitehurst, lead VFX house Double Negative and Milk VFX, plus special makeup effects by Tristan Versluis.[37]

Release[edit]

Due to a poorly received test screening, David Ellison, a financier and producer at Skydance, became concerned that the film was "too intellectual" and "too complicated", and demanded changes to make it appeal to a wider audience, including making Portman's character more sympathetic, and changing the ending. Producer Scott Rudin sided with the director, who did not want to alter the film. Rudin, who had final cut privilege, defended the film and refused to take notes from Ellison.[4]

On December 7, 2017, it was announced that due to the clashes between Rudin and Ellison, and the shift in Paramount's leadership, a deal was struck allowing Netflix to distribute the film internationally. According to this deal, Paramount would handle the American, Canadian and Chinese release, while Netflix would begin streaming the film in other territories 17 days later.[4]

The film was released theatrically in the United States on February 23, 2018, by Paramount Pictures, and digitally in other markets on March 12, 2018, by Netflix.[6][38] Garland expressed his disappointment with the decision to coincide digital distribution with theatrical, saying, "We made the film for cinema."[39][40] On January 5, 2019, the film was released digitally on Netflix's competitor Hulu.[41][42]

Annihilation was released on Digital HD on May 22, 2018, and on Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray and DVD on May 29, 2018.[43][44]

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

Annihilation grossed $32.7 million in the United States and Canada and $10.3 million in China, for a worldwide total of $43.1 million, against a production budget of $40–55 million.[1] While the film did not amass much in terms of box office, the film found new life in home release, with some publications arguing it could become a cult classic.[45][46]

Domestically, Annihilation was released alongside Game Night and Every Day, and was projected to gross $10–12 million from 2,012 theaters in its opening weekend.[47] The film made $3.9 million on its first day (including $900,000 from Thursday night previews at 1,850 theaters). It ended up making $11 million over the weekend, finishing fourth, behind Black Panther, Game Night and Peter Rabbit.[3] In its second weekend the film dropped 49% to $5.9 million, falling to 6th place.[48]

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 88%, based on 323 reviews, with an average rating of 7.7/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Annihilation backs up its sci-fi visual wonders and visceral genre thrills with an impressively ambitious—and surprisingly strange—exploration of challenging themes that should leave audiences pondering long after the end credits roll."[49] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 79 out of 100, based on reviews from 51 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[50] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "C" on an A+ to F scale, while PostTrak reported filmgoers gave it a 71% overall positive score.[3]

Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film four out of four, praising it for taking risks, and saying: "Kudos to Garland and the cast, but bravo to Scott Rudin as well. Apparently you knew a masterpiece when you saw it, and you made sure we were able to see it as well."[51] Writing for Rolling Stone, Peter Travers complimented the cast and Garland's writing and direction, giving the film 3.5 stars out of 4 and saying, "Garland need make no apologies for Annihilation. It's a bracing brainteaser with the courage of its own ambiguity. You work out the answers in your own head, in your own time, in your own dreams, where the best sci-fi puzzles leave things."[52] The Economist described the film as "tightrope-walking the fine line between open-ended, mind-expanding mystery and lethargic, pretentious twaddle", but praised its final half hour.[53]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "Annihilation (2018)". The Numbers. Retrieved August 20, 2018.
  2. ^ "ANNIHILATION (15)". British Board of Film Classification. February 12, 2018. Retrieved April 2, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c D'Alessandro, Anthony (February 25, 2018). "'Black Panther' Breaks More Records: $108M Second Weekend Is Second-Best Ever As Marvel Movie Heads For $400M". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved February 25, 2018.
  4. ^ a b c d Kit, Borys (December 7, 2017). "'Annihilation': Behind-the-Scenes of a Producer Clash and That Netflix Deal (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 9, 2018. ... the production budget, which is in the $55 million range ...
  5. ^ Fennessey, Sean (February 23, 2018). "Alex Garland Leaves Nothing Behind". The Ringer. Archived from the original on 2018-02-25. Annihilation is a 40 million dollar film
  6. ^ a b Fuller, Becky (February 22, 2018). "Why Annihilation Is Going Straight To Netflix Internationally". Screen Rant. Retrieved February 22, 2018.
  7. ^ Pile, Jonathan (March 12, 2018). "Annihilation Review". Empire. Retrieved April 13, 2018.
  8. ^ a b Fleming, Mike Jr. (March 26, 2013). "Paramount, Scott Rudin land 'Annihilation', First Installment of Southern Reach Trilogy". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved January 11, 2022.
  9. ^ McNary, Dave (October 31, 2014). "'Annihilation' Movie Gains Momentum at Paramount with Alex Garland". Variety. Retrieved January 11, 2022.
  10. ^ McKittrick, Christopher (January 6, 2016). "Alex Garland on Screenwriting". Creative Screenwriting. Retrieved January 6, 2016.
  11. ^ 'Annihilation' director Alex Garland chats with CNET about the upcoming film. CNET. February 8, 2018. Event occurs at 32m15s-33m30s. Retrieved March 18, 2018 – via YouTube.
  12. ^ ANNIHILATION (2018) - Alex Garland Behind the Scenes Interview. The Media Hub. February 10, 2018. Retrieved March 18, 2018 – via YouTube.
  13. ^ Alex Garland 'Annihilation' - Talks at Google. Talks at Google. February 22, 2018. Event occurs at 03m30. Retrieved March 18, 2018 – via YouTube. In this [adaptation] instance it was like an adaptation of the atmosphere.
  14. ^ Sharf, Zack (February 15, 2018). "Alex Garland on 'Annihilation' Whitewashing: 'There Was Nothing Cynical or Conspiratorial' in Casting the Film". IndieWire. Retrieved April 18, 2018.
  15. ^ Vishnevetsky, Ignatiy (24 February 2018). "What Annihilation learned from Andrei Tarkovsky's Soviet sci-fi classics". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 8 March 2020.
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  17. ^ Starosta, Stuart (2 December 2015). "Roadside Picnic: Russian SF classic with parallels to Vandermeer's Area X | Fantasy Literature: Fantasy and Science Fiction Book and Audiobook Reviews". fantasyliterature.com. Retrieved 8 March 2020.
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  19. ^ Anderson, Kyle (February 21, 2018). "Annihilation is a Scary, Cosmic Trip (Review)". Nerdist. Nerdist Industries. Archived from the original on March 11, 2018. Retrieved March 10, 2018.
  20. ^ a b McCoy, Chris (March 2, 2018). "Annihilation". Memphis Flyer. Contemporary Media. Retrieved March 10, 2018.
  21. ^ VanderMeer, Jeff (17 July 2016). "Annihilation is 100% NOT a tribute to Picnic/Stalker. But I keep hearing Tanis = Annihilation. Why?". @jeffvandermeer. Retrieved 8 March 2020.
  22. ^ Twitter https://twitter.com/jeffvandermeer/status/976202259968258051. Retrieved 2021-09-16. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  23. ^ Kroll, Justin (May 7, 2015). "Natalie Portman Circles 'Ex Machina' Director's Next Sci-Fi Movie (Exclusive)". Variety. Retrieved January 11, 2022.
  24. ^ Galuppo, Mia (November 10, 2015). "'Jane the Virgin' Star in Talks to Join Natalie Portman in 'Annihilation'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 11, 2022.
  25. ^ Kroll, Justin (November 10, 2015). "'Jane the Virgin' Star Gina Rodriguez in Talks to Join Natalie Portman's 'Annihilation'". Variety. Retrieved January 11, 2022.
  26. ^ Kit, Borys (March 30, 2016). "Oscar Isaac in Talks to Join Natalie Portman in 'Annihilation'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 11, 2022.
  27. ^ Kroll, Justin (April 29, 2016). "'Containment' Star Joins Natalie Portman in 'Annihilation' (Exclusive)". Variety. Retrieved January 11, 2022.
  28. ^ McMillan, Graeme (February 12, 2018). "'Annihilation' Criticized for 'White-Washed Casting'". The Hoillywood Reporter. Retrieved January 11, 2022.
  29. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (February 14, 2018). "'Annihilation' Director Alex Garland On Whitewashing Accusations: 'Nothing Cynical Or Conspiratorial' In Movie's Casting". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved January 11, 2022.
  30. ^ Sharf, Zack (February 14, 2018). "Natalie Portman Wasn't Aware Her 'Annihilation' Casting Was Whitewashing and Knows It 'Sounds Problematic'". IndieWire. Retrieved January 11, 2022.
  31. ^ Kroll, Justin (April 29, 2016). "'Containment' Star Joins Natalie Portman in 'Annihilation' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  32. ^ Williams, Phillip (April 26, 2016). "Construction of location set in Pond, 'Annihilation'". Geograph Britain and Ireland. Archived from the original on February 9, 2018. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  33. ^ Williams, Phillip (April 26, 2016). "Track sign during filming". Geograph Britain and Ireland. Archived from the original on February 9, 2018. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  34. ^ Bancroft, Colette (May 17, 2017). "For Florida author Jeff VanderMeer, giant flying bears are all in a day's work". Tampa Bay Times. Archived from the original on February 9, 2018. Retrieved February 9, 2018.
  35. ^ Nordine, Michael (July 7, 2016). "Alex Garland's 'Annihilation': Cast and Crew Share Striking Behind-the-Scenes Images from the Sci-Fi Thriller". IndieWire. Penske Business Media. Retrieved April 18, 2018.
  36. ^ Pochin, Courtney (July 7, 2016). "'Annihilation': New Natalie Portman film to be shot at Holkham". Eastern Daily Press. Archant Community Media. Retrieved July 14, 2016.
  37. ^ Martin, Kevin H. (April 3, 2018). "An Altered Realm of Being (and Beings) Haunt ANNIHILATION". VFX Voice. Visual Effects Society. Retrieved April 3, 2018.
  38. ^ Hipes, Patrick (August 3, 2017). "Alex Garland's 'Annihilation' Gets 2018 Release Date". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved August 4, 2017.
  39. ^ Cook, Tommy (December 13, 2017). "Alex Garland on Annihilation, That Netflix Deal, and More". Collider. Complex Media. Retrieved January 24, 2018.
  40. ^ Wakeman, Gregory (February 20, 2018). "How 'Annihilation' director Alex Garland feels about the film being released on Netflix". Metro. Metro Media. Retrieved April 18, 2018.
  41. ^ Vineyard, Jennifer (2019-01-01). "The Best Movies and TV Shows New to Netflix, Amazon and More in January". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-01-11.
  42. ^ "What's New to Stream on Hulu for January 2019". Film School Rejects. 2019-01-06. Retrieved 2019-01-11.
  43. ^ "Annihilation (2018)". DVDs Release Dates. Retrieved April 18, 2018.
  44. ^ Squires, John (April 17, 2018). "Experience 'Annihilation' on Digital, DVD and Blu-ray This May". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved April 17, 2018.
  45. ^ Faierman, Leo (June 23, 2018). "Biggest Box Office Bombs of 2018 So Far". Screen Rant. Valnet, Inc. Retrieved September 16, 2018.
  46. ^ O'Falt, Chris (May 19, 2018). "'2001,' 50 Years Later: Kubrick's Classic Showed How 'Annihilation' Could Have Been Profitable". IndieWire. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved September 16, 2018.
  47. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (February 21, 2018). "'Black Panther' Posts Record $21M Pre-Summer Tuesday; Second Weekend To Reap $104M-$109M". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved February 21, 2018.
  48. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (March 4, 2018). "'Black Panther' Busts Past Half Billion; 'Red Sparrow' Flies Low With $17M – Sunday AM B.O. Update". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved April 2, 2018.
  49. ^ "Annihilation (2018)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved October 10, 2021.
  50. ^ "Annihilation Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved September 28, 2020.
  51. ^ Roeper, Richard (February 21, 2018). "Annihilation': Innovations abound as Natalie Portman ventures into the unknown". Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved February 22, 2018.
  52. ^ Travers, Peter (February 21, 2018). "'Annihilation' Review: Director Alex Garland Transcends Sci-Fi Pulp". Rolling Stone. Retrieved February 22, 2018.
  53. ^ "Is Netflix the new straight-to-video? "Annihilation" is the third in a series of mediocre science-fiction releases". The Economist. March 12, 2018. Retrieved March 12, 2018.

External links[edit]