Annihilation (film)

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Annihilation
Five women, all armed, in a forested area
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAlex Garland
Produced by
Screenplay byAlex Garland
Based onAnnihilation
by Jeff VanderMeer
Starring
Music by
CinematographyRob Hardy
Edited byBarney Pilling
Production
company
Distributed by
Release date
  • 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[1]
Country
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$40–55 million[2][3][4][3][5]
Box office$43.1 million[4]

Annihilation is a 2018 science fiction horror film written and directed by Alex Garland, based on the 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 scientists who enter "The Shimmer", a mysterious quarantined zone of mutating plants and animals caused by an alien presence.

Annihilation was released theatrically in Canada and the United States by Paramount Pictures on February 23, 2018, and in China on April 13, 2018.[6] Across the three countries, it grossed $43 million against a production budget between $40–55 million. It was released digitally by Netflix in a number of other countries on March 12, 2018. The film received praise for its visuals, acting, direction, and thought-provoking story. According to Empire Magazine, the film addresses "depression, grief, and the human propensity for self-destruction".[7]

Plot[edit]

At the U.S. government's Area X facility on a southern coast, cellular biology professor and former U.S. Army soldier Lena is under interrogation. Previously she was part of an expedition to an anomalous zone known as "the Shimmer", but was the only one to return. The Shimmer emerged three years prior from a meteor that landed in a lighthouse near the facility, and is gradually expanding and increasing its boundaries. Many exploratory expeditions were organized, but only Lena's husband Kane returns home after a year of absence. Kane cannot explain where he was and how he came back, seems to be in a permanent daze, and his condition quickly deteriorates. Lena calls an ambulance, but she and Kane are intercepted by security forces and taken to a secret facility. As Kane is put in intensive care, psychologist Dr. Ventress prepares a new scientific expedition into the Shimmer, with Lena joining her. Three other women participate in the expedition: physicist Josie Radek, geomorphologist Cassie "Cass" Sheppard, and paramedic Anya Thorensen.

The group enters the Shimmer, and Lena has a brief vision of her affair with her co-worker Dan. When the group awakes, they find their communication equipment does not function and they have no idea where they are. They conclude that six days had already passed since they entered, but they do not remember anything after entering the Shimmer. They encounter unusually mutated plants and animals, and Josie is attacked by an albino alligator with many rows of shark-like teeth. At an abandoned military base, the group finds a video message from Kane's previous expedition. It shows Kane using a knife to cut open the abdomen of another soldier to reveal his slithering intestines. The group finds the soldier's corpse, which has turned into an overgrown colony of lichens.

At night, the base is attacked by a mutant bear that drags Cass away, and Lena later finds her mutilated body. Within an abandoned village, Josie studies plants that have taken on a human-like form, and theorizes that the Shimmer functions as a prism for DNA, distorting and transforming everything that falls within its boundaries, including the expedition members' own bodies. Anya, overcome with paranoia after watching her fingerprints change, disarms the other members and ties them to chairs, and accuses Lena of murdering Cass. The bear returns and lures Anya away by emitting a cry for help in Cass' voice. The bear kills Anya, while Josie manages to free herself and shoots the bear.

Ventress leaves the group and heads for the lighthouse, the center of the Shimmer. The next morning, Josie convinces Lena she is right about the refractions within the Shimmer. Lena comments that she checked her blood the previous night and that the Shimmer is in her. Ventress wants to face it, because she has cancer and has nothing to lose. Lena wants to fight it because it took her husband, whom she now believes accepted the suicide mission into Area X because she cheated on him with her coworker. Josie walks away, with Lena calling after her. Josie believes Cass' dying mind was "refracted" into the bear, and allows herself to "refract" into a human-shaped plant to avoid a similar fate.

Lena follows Ventress to the lighthouse, where she discovers Kane's remains and a videotape. In the footage, Kane commits suicide with an incendiary grenade, but after the explosion, a doppelgänger of Kane is revealed to be the one filming as he steps into frame. Lena descends into the hole created by the meteor and finds Ventress, who tells her the forces at work will spread to encompass everything. Ventress disintegrates into a glowing nebulous structure that absorbs a drop of blood from Lena's face and creates a humanoid entity that mimics nearly all of Lena's motions and eventually transforms into an identical copy of her that begins copying her thinking. Lena exploits its mimicking behavior by having it copy her suicidal self-destructiveness before setting an active phosphorus grenade in its hands and fleeing. The creature makes no attempt to follow as it is set ablaze by the grenade. Now on fire, and having seemingly internalized Lena's self destructive urges, the creature affectionately touches Kane's burned body before crawling back into the hole and igniting the core of the lighthouse. Flames fully engulf the lighthouse, the various constructs in the area collapse, and the Shimmer fades away.

Lena is told by her interviewer that Kane's condition rapidly improved after the Shimmer vanished, and that he is now not only healthy again but more lucid than at any other time since his apparent "return". Lena visits Kane, and asks if he is really Kane; he replies, "I don't think so”, possibly suggesting that he is a doppelgänger. He asks if she is Lena, and she does not answer. Kane's doppelgänger embraces Lena and their irises shimmer.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

In March 2013, it was announced that Paramount Pictures and Scott Rudin Productions had acquired the film rights to Annihilation, the first novel in Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach Trilogy,[8] and that the film would be produced by Scott Rudin and Eli Bush.[8] Alex Garland was hired to adapt and direct the film the next year.[9]

Writing[edit]

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 similarities between the film and other science fiction works. Nerdist Industries' Kyle Anderson commented that the film has little to do with the novel that it was based on, and is similar to H. P. Lovecraft's 1927 short story "The Colour Out of Space",[15] about a meteor that lands in a swamp and unleashes a plague.[16] Chris McCoy of the Memphis Flyer also found the film reminiscent of "The Colour Out of Space" as well as the novel Roadside Picnic (1971) and its film adaptation, Stalker (1979).[16]

Filming[edit]

Principal photography was underway by April 2016, when actor David Gyasi was added to the cast.[17] Location filming by Lighthouse Pictures Ltd occurred starting in late April in South Forest, Windsor Great Park.[18][19] 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.[20] On May 9, 2016, cinematographer Rob Hardy began sharing pictures from the set of the film.[21] On July 13 and 14, filming took place at Holkham Pines in North Norfolk.[22] Shooting was completed that month.[3]

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.[23]

Release[edit]

Due to a poorly received test screening, David Ellison, a financier and producer at Paramount, 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.[3]

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.[3]

Prior to its release, the film drew criticism for the casting of Natalie Portman and Jennifer Jason Leigh as characters who are, in the later books, described as Asian and of half Native American descent, respectively.[24] Garland stated that none of the five female characters' ethnicity is mentioned in the first book, which was the only one of the trilogy that had been published when the script was completed. He cast the characters based on his reaction only to the actors he had met in the casting process, or actors he had worked with before.[25][14][26]

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][27] Garland expressed his disappointment with the decision to coincide digital distribution with theatrical, saying, "We made the film for cinema."[28][29] On January 5, 2019, the film was released digitally on Netflix's competitor Hulu.[30][31]

Annihilation was released on Digital HD on May 22, 2018, and on Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray and DVD on May 29, 2018.[32][33]

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.[4] The film was branded one of the biggest theatrical box office bombs of 2018.[34][35]

In North America, 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.[36] 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.[2] In its second weekend the film dropped 49% to $5.9 million, falling to 6th place.[37]

Critical response[edit]

On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 87%, based on 295 reviews, and an average rating of 7.75/10. 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."[38] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 79 out of 100, based on reviews from 51 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[39] 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.[2]

Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 4 out of 4 stars, 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."[40] 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."[41] Conversely, 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.[42]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "ANNIHILATION (15)". British Board of Film Classification. February 12, 2018. Retrieved April 2, 2018.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ a b c d e Kit, Borys (December 7, 2017). "'Annihilation': Behind-the-Scenes of a Producer Clash and That Netflix Deal (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved February 9, 2018. ... the production budget, which is in the $55 million range ...
  4. ^ a b c "Annihilation (2018)". The Numbers. Retrieved August 20, 2018.
  5. ^ Sean Fennessey (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. Penske Business Media. Retrieved May 9, 2015.
  9. ^ McNary, Dave (October 31, 2014). "'Annihilation' Movie Gains Momentum at Paramount with Alex Garland (Exclusive)". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved May 9, 2015.
  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. YouTube. February 10, 2018. Retrieved March 18, 2018.
  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. ^ a b Sharf, Zack (February 15, 2018). "Alex Garland on 'Annihilation' Whitewashing: 'There Was Nothing Cynical or Conspiratorial' in Casting the Film". IndieWire. Penske Business Media. Retrieved April 18, 2018.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ a b McCoy, Chris (March 2, 2018). "Annihilation". Memphis Flyer. Contemporary Media. Retrieved March 10, 2018.
  17. ^ Kroll, Justin (April 29, 2016). "'Containment' Star Joins Natalie Portman in 'Annihilation' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ 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.
  21. ^ 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.
  22. ^ 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.
  23. ^ Martin, Kevin H. (April 3, 2018). "An Altered Realm of Being (and Beings) Haunt ANNIHILATION". VFX Voice. Visual Effects Society. Retrieved April 3, 2018.
  24. ^ Han, Karen (February 20, 2018). "'Annihilation' and Hollywood's Erasure of Asians". The Daily Beast. The Daily Beast Company. Retrieved February 20, 2018.
  25. ^ Watklns, Gwynne (February 14, 2018). "Natalie Portman Takes On 'Annihilation' Whitewashing Accusations". Huffington Post. Oath. Retrieved April 18, 2018.
  26. ^ Lutes, Alicia (December 13, 2017). "How Alex Garland Dreamed Up an Even Crazier ANNIHILATION". Nerdist. Nerdist Industries. Archived from the original on February 23, 2018. Retrieved April 18, 2018.
  27. ^ Hipes, Patrick (August 3, 2017). "Alex Garland's 'Annihilation' Gets 2018 Release Date". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved August 4, 2017.
  28. ^ Cook, Tommy (December 13, 2017). "Alex Garland on Annihilation, That Netflix Deal, and More". Collider. Complex Media. Retrieved January 24, 2018.
  29. ^ 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.
  30. ^ 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.
  31. ^ "What's New to Stream on Hulu for January 2019". Film School Rejects. 2019-01-06. Retrieved 2019-01-11.
  32. ^ "Annihilation (2018)". DVDs Release Dates. Retrieved April 18, 2018.
  33. ^ Squires, John (April 17, 2018). "Experience 'Annihilation' on Digital, DVD and Blu-ray This May". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved April 17, 2018.
  34. ^ Faierman, Leo (June 23, 2018). "Biggest Box Office Bombs of 2018 So Far". Screen Rant. Valnet, Inc. Retrieved September 16, 2018.
  35. ^ 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.
  36. ^ 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.
  37. ^ 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.
  38. ^ "Annihilation (2018)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved October 3, 2019.
  39. ^ "Annihilation Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved November 3, 2018.
  40. ^ Roeper, Richard (February 21, 2018). "Annihilation': Innovations abound as Natalie Portman ventures into the unknown". Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved February 22, 2018.
  41. ^ Travers, Peter (February 21, 2018). "'Annihilation' Review: Director Alex Garland Transcends Sci-Fi Pulp". Rolling Stone. Retrieved February 22, 2018.
  42. ^ N.B. (March 12, 2018). "Is Netflix the new straight-to-video? "Annihilation" is the third in a series of mediocre science-fiction releases". The Economist. Retrieved March 12, 2018.

External links[edit]