Annihilation: A Motion Picture I Would Like to Discuss


#1

Hey All,

I went to the movie theater tonight and saw the new spooky sci-fi movie directed/written by Alex Garland without really any context and, boy, was I pleasantly surprised. Annihilation was good. I expected nothing from it and it was so dang good.

I’m just gonna rattle off a couple things I liked about it
The frightful qualities of the story are derived from a muddling of assumed truths:
Comprehensions of selfhood are cast into doubt and the trustworthiness of our physical reality is exploded. This is all executed rather artfully. Quiet moments are given time to sit, asynchronous edits enhance tension, and the performances and photography are just swell. I like a weird sci-fi/horror movie. This is a good ass, weird sci-fi/horror movie.

What do y’all think the film has to say about:

  • Living things existing w/o desire and our perception of/relationship with such beings?
  • Permeability, change and people?
  • Fear, Otherness and Selfhood (Maybe this goes hand in hand w/the previous topic)?
  • Our cast of characters?
  • And cetera?
    Really I just wanna talk about this dang movie, so if you’ve got some thoughts, please share :slight_smile:

#2

So this movie had a couple things I loved.

1) Hox genes. I learned about these in an anthropology class sophomore year of undergrad and have thought they were the freakiest shit ever since. The idea that a fly and a human have relatively similar genes regulating our body plan is fucking weird as hell and I’m really happy to see a film engage with that idea and explore it in a distinctly horrific way.

2) That goddamn bear scene. Holy shit. That was one of the most unsettling things I’ve seen in a movie in years. I honestly can’t remember the last time a new movie made me feel that uncomfortable and disturbed. Loved it.

And beyond that it brings up some really fascinating questions about where your sense of self is located and what it means to be yourself. It doesn’t really answer those questions or even ask them openly, but IMO that’s what good sci-fi does. Asking questions is so much more interesting to me than proposing answers and Annihilation asks a ton of questions.


#3

Without wanting to be the “The Book Was Better” A**hole (especially because I haven’t seen the movie yet) the trilogy of books it’s based on is phenomenal. Each one short enough to read in a day, and completely gripping an unnerving. Although, some of the tension is probably lost if you know what’s happening.

Realy glad to hear the movie was so good, look forward to checking it out!


#4

As one who saw it last night, and loved the trilogy… solidarity my fellow “The Book Was Better” A**hole. Having said that, I think in this case, similar to “Arrival,” I think I am more in the camp of “The Movie is Good but the Book Was Different” camp.

“Annihilation,” the film, does a very good job of establishing itself outside the book or, rather, acknowledging the source material but also being aware that it cannot stay true to it. VanderMeer’s novel would be impossible to replicate on the screen; the narrative approach, the relationship between the explorers, the inner battle of the Biologist, and the progress through Area-X. However, I do not think the film actually falls short in not trying to address these subjects in the same way. The comparison that has been rattling around my mind is Carpenter’s “The Thing” versus the source material John Campbell’s “Who Goes There.”


#5

This is what I was worried about, I felt the same way about Ender’s Game. So much was internal and personal that the real meat of that story would never translate to film. Glad to hear they pulled it off here, unlike for Ender’s Game.


#6

“Annihilation” has its shortcomings but, again, I was very happy with it and some of the radical departures from the book are insanely good.

I haven’t been following any of the production or news closely but I was left with the impression that there are no plans to do a full trilogy and, as such, this movie feels like it tries to hit as much as it can to make a “complete” story.


#7

After reading these thoughts, I’m quite excited to see this film!

I have this problem where I want films to be close adaptations, even though I don’t actually think that’s a great way to make art. Reading this thread, I’m consciously going to go in knowing it is not a direct adaptation, and I feel like that should help me get over that.

For me the biggest concern from watching the trailer was that it felt like the film was trying to be too “Hollywood.” The first novel, for me, is strikingly… unfantastical. Area-X is the most ridiculous name, sure, but they’re not going in with a big badass mission, they’re just going to study the area. There’s a total of like, what, three bullets fired in the entire book? But the trailer made it seem like an action-packed thriller. Did you guys feel that way or nah?


#8

There is quite a bit more action in the Annihilation movie than there was in the book, but it’s not Aliens. It’s proportional to the predators–a sharkodile and a skullbear–the movie introduces. And it proves to be utterly ineffective against the movie’s take on the Crawler/lighthouse keeper.

It was different as all hell and I loved it. A very Kubrickian adaptation in the sense of taking the germ of what the source material was all about and approaching it from a different angle while still maintaining the unearthly atmosphere and building dread. The cast was great, especially Tessa Thompson’s character, Josie. Between this role and Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok she’s got a ton of range and I look forward to seeing more of her work.

And that climax! Less than a year apart, both David Lynch and Alex Garland have said “fuck it” and included 2001: A Space Odyssey-esque abstract light shows in their work and I am all. Here. For. It.


#9

they gave the characters names? garbage

no I’m looking forward to watching it on Netflix in a few weeks or whatever. I picked the book up in the library last month on a whim and then read the other two like immediately afterwards so, I guess I liked it. I probably wouldn’t have really taken notice of this film if I hadn’t? Serendipitous timing, really.
I probably wouldn’t go to the cinema to watch it, at least partly now because I’m told it’s somewhat scary and I have a Very Low threshold for dealing with scary things so watching on Netflix will make it way easier to hide/runaway if I need to.

It sounds like it doesn’t try and, like, neatly tie up/explain everything, which is good, imo, because, at least reading the book(s) it never quite felt like that was actually the point.

(oscar isaac is in it so I’m happy, yknow)


#10

I feel you on this. I was, at the outset, very bummed out that the characters have names and are given some clunky backstory/exposition. Having said that, I do not know how else this would have worked in a movie versus a narrative trick in a novel that is presented as the Biologist’s field notes. It would have gotten old quick if everyone referred to each other by title.

The movie does stay true to this. You may be interested in reading some VanderMeer’s comments on Facebook. They are, generally, spoiler free but I think you may appreciate what he says as to the differences in the stories, the mediums used for them, etc.


#11

Haven’t read the books, but I thought it was a solid film with great acting, interesting set and makeup design and effects, and it scratched at some interesting ideas. I thought the climax was incredibly tense, and I didn’t see why people were feeling badly towards the ending - it seemed like a fine ending to me, but then again I’m very comfortable with ambiguity in stories. I went on to have nightmares about the bear-creature, especially the way it screamed with its victim’s dying screams.

I enjoyed the moment near the end where one character references the Shimmer being destructive and they introduce the idea that maybe it’s better to think of it as making something new. Clearly destructive to what came before, of course, but I do think we have a tendency to view the status quo as the way things should be and to view fundamental changes as destructive when they might not be. It would have been interesting to see the idea explored in more depth.


#12

The book was way better, but it was also damn near impossible to adapt.

Still, I think giving this film at least two entries to spread itself through would’ve helped it breath and would’ve allowed the ending to be a bit more impactful. Especially since Authority and Acceptance would both prove easier to adapt visually. Oscar Issac would’ve been perfect for Control.

That being said, I really dug the pervasive dreaminess and sense of alienation that this film managed to fill the whole theater with.


#13

In the movie’s defense, I do not remember any of the character names. I think there’s an Anya in there? One early scene clearly introduces every character by their title, and I ended up using those as mental reference throughout the film.


#14

I liked the movie overall, but it gave me some weird flashbacks to The Cloverfield Paradox. Both kind of had this “throw spaghetti at the wall” approach to the effects of their Big Weird Things: In Annihilation, genetic refraction sometimes makes a gator-shark, or turns someone’s guts into worms, or makes somebody turn into a plant. In The Cloverfield Paradox, dimension-hopping sometimes makes a guy’s guts explode with worms, or gets somebody stuck in a wall, or makes a severed arm come alive.

I think Annihilation connected all of this much better and definitely had more to say, but in both, I wish the weirdness was either more cohesive or granted some slightly better explanation.


#15

So I finally was able to go see it, and I have mixed feelings, mostly on the film as an adaptation.

As a film itself, I thought it was a really fun movie, with some absolutely stunning imagery that is unrivaled. The screaming bear, the corpse in the pool, the flowers coming out of her skin, all of these are going to stick in my mind. There were a few cliche moments, particularly in the first act, which I think was almost a superfluous sequence. Oscar Isaac and Jennifer Leigh, I think, don’t perform very well here. Isaac I feel kind of hammed up his spaciness, when he was in that mood (his bits where he was just a normal guy were good) but Leigh never seemed real (though people have said it was probably a directorial choice), especially compared to the other actors, specifically Gina Rodriguez and Tessa Thompson, who were pretty fantastic. Pretty much everyone chewed the scenery a little at some point, but it can be appropriate. All in all though, I thought it was a smart, well produced film that was thoroughly entertaining.

But as an adaptation, I think a lot of nuance was lost in the narrative. There’s a lot of little changes as concessions to make it more accessible, which is fine, but the major changes to the overall arc kind of bothered me. For those who haven’t experienced both, one does not spoil the other. The stories are radically different; the only thing in common is honestly the set-up. After they pass beyond the border of Area X, the story changes entirely, almost nothing is shared with the book. I liked this as a film-goer, because I was genuinely surprised and along for the ride. I genuinely do think, though, that the best parts of the film (the brilliant and disturbing imagery and dilemmas) could have coexisted with the original narrative. I genuinely missed “Where lies the strangling fruit…” and the tower (tunnel?), and the reveal of the lighthouse keeper underneath it, and the bizarre mind games played regarding hypnosis (which may be a slightly inaccurate depiction, but…). We do get the games of distrust and confusion, yes, but not nearly on the same level of the novel, which was, to me, central to the narrative at play. I also was quite irked by the ending. Not the denoument, but before she leaves. The fact that the biologist was able to “annihilate” Area X and leave, just, doesn’t fit the themes of being powerless, being in awe, and relating with nature. It’s, in my view, fundamentally opposed to the themes of the narrative.

Even the title “Annihilation” represents something different. In the book, “Annihilation” was a cry using a post-hypnotic trigger (it wouldn’t work in real life but let me stop being pedantic) from the psychologist. In the film, “Annihilation” was the cry of the psychologist of the inevitable spread of the Area. This is representative to me of a fundamental difference between the themes of these pieces. Annihilation, the book, is about people hurting other people under nature’s reign. Annihilation, the film, is about an extraterrestrial nature hurting people while other people watch. In my opinion, the book tells us all our goals and plans are futile and meaningless when in the shadow of the march of nature itself. The film tells us the opposite; that nature is our ambivalent adversary that spreads both perniciously and overtly. I think these themes on the surface aren’t diametrically opposed, but, to me, result in a massively different tone, feeling and narrative.

So, I liked it. I like the book more, but I still think it’s a good film, even if a questionable adaptation. If I think of them as separate stories, I am more comfortable with it.


#16

I don’t have anything to add, I simply wanted to say I thoroughly enjoyed and agree with your analysis.


#17

I’m way on board with all of this analysis.

And honestly, cutting out the Strangling fruit from the hand of the sinner probably helped kneecap the marketing effort before it even began. Imagine a trailer that just has somebody reading that scrawl as scenes from the film play with no sound, it’d establish such mystery and make people sit up and take notice, even American audiences I’d wager.

I also feel like there may have been more hypnosis related stuff in the film as well but it got lopped off. Right after they go through the Barrier they wake up 4 days later in a camp none of them can remember pitching. That is kind of out of the purview of what Area X is established as being able to do, and sounds much more like the Director’s skill set.


#18

Annihilation is a great sci-fi film in a lot of ways. And I think I would be fine with them taking some liberties, but…well, it’s a crap adaptation of the book, for me. I get that not all of the novel is really the sort of thing you can make happen on screen…but to erase so much of the amazing and unsettling shit from the book is really disappointing. You gave them names? You spent half the movie outside the Area? What was the point of the biologist’s random affair with some no-name character? And you didn’t even work in a reference to the lighthouse keeper’s words? No tower/tunnel? By the time they finally worked in the title I was totally grossed out. Congratulations, you managed to turn a story about the weirdest and most inexplicable shit ever into an “alien wants to eradicate humanity” story. You put a neat spin on it, but come on. Authority spoiler: And spoiled an important revelation from the second novel without even doing anything interesting with it.

The good news is that my frustration with the movie convinced my wife to pick up the novel, ha.


#19

I really don’t understand or care about the “compared to the book analysis” stuff or comparing to source material and as someone who just watched it free of all that I thoroughly enjoyed it. Portman was clearly the weakest link of the cast being kind of a boring actress in general but y’know…whatever. The screaming bear and the whole lighthouse deal were fantastically executed and will easily stand the test of time in my mind.


#20

I loved the book and managed to convince my girlfriend to watch the movie with me. She was concerned that the trailer looked terrifying, but I assured her that must have been down to difficulties marketing a movie adaptation of something like Annihilation. The book is far more “weird and mysterious” than “weird and scary”. Unfortunately, she hated the movie and will be forever scarred by that bear scene :bear:.

I enjoyed it as something very different to the book and tweeted out my thoughts as follows:

“Annihilation (the film) is less of an adaptation and more a mutation, in which you can recognise the warped essence of its source material. It’s the novel projected through a prism into something different.”

I felt it shared many similarities with Under the Skin. They’re both high concept sci-fi movies, helmed by British directors, based on beloved novels, yet barely resembling their source material.