Again, I think the film was really really good and stands on its own! I just wrote that up because it was on my mind, and I had read the book mere weeks before so the comparison was impossible not to make. I think knowing it’s source material informed my opinions on missed opportunities. I couldn’t help but feel like they boiled out essential elements to the mood of the novel that could have stayed in the film, and in fact, strengthened the film to be a genuine masterpiece. I also do feel that critique on adaptation is worthwhile and interesting, though not really a meaningful assessment of quality!
also dont take the rest of this comment as an argument with or against you it just inspired thoughts in me and i write too much ufhksd!
also @mundanesoul the words in the tower/tunnel, it occurs to me, and the final reveal of the crawler are things that are the most powerful because they exist inside a book. Using inexplicable language within a language-oriented medium instills a particular mood. In the film, an audiovisual medium, it uses inexplicable audiovisuals like the scream of a woman coming out of a decomposing bears mouth, or a bizarre human-shaped… thing mirroring he movements of our protagonist to instill the same feeling. I still think they could have used the "Where lies the strangling fruit… (and am genuinely annoyed that they didn’t use it), but I don’t think the lighthouse keeper and the Crawler would have worked. That moment in the book works so well because the language feels inadequate to describe whatever she’s seeing. In a way, there’s no way that could have been done in a film; same goes for the amount of introspection that goes on in the novel. I think the visual imagery they replaced the written imagery with adequately conveyed much of the unease through film.
But, so… I’ll also be the first to say I don’t like judging things on what they aren’t.
So let me talk about the film for what it is: an excellent science fiction film with some of the most memorable and nightmarish imagery I’ve seen in years. I think the direction is kind of weak at times, specifically with the acting. I’ll also complain that I felt much of the first act was superfluous; this might be a personal aesthetic preference, but I would have liked it to take place within Area X primarily. (Again, probably preference, I like things that are more confined.) Certain details also felt like the weighed down the narrative (the biologist’s affair, for example).
But very few films actually get the dream-like horror Annihilation manages to hit. (Fun fact, the book itself was inspired by Vandermeer’s dream. ) It does genuinely feel like a nightmare at times. Unfortunately, I can’t even say much about it, because the visions this film shows are so truly inexplicable and horrifying that I can’t even analyze them. The bear scene, as has been said so much, was genuinely one of the must unbelievable sequences I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing in a theatre. The corpse in the pool is another image that I can’t even explain why it’s so brilliant. The ending sequence inside the lighthouse was so bizarre and dreamlike and unnerving. The movement of the medic’s fingerprints and the flowers growing out of the physicist’s arm were more subtle images that lend to the dream-like nature of this film. I love that the film ramps up the terror incrementally. The encounters with “predators” go from somewhat strange, with the crocodile with shark’s teeth to nightmarish,with the bear scene, to outright incomprehensible, with the lighthouse sequence. Things happening that make only make their own hellish sense within the distorted reality within Area X. It’s so fucking good; I can’t praise the imagery enough. At the very least, the film deserves to be remembered for this.
I don’t think, though, it has anything particularly “strong” to say. I actually thought the explanation of all things being refracted was really cool, but it didn’t really factor into message or meaning, which is fine but feels less cohesive. I think, especially with a film that has a distinctly ecological bent, it’s weird to portray nature as adversarial. I know that they make a very clear point about nature (in this case, an alien lifeform) being totally ambivalent and without malice, just doing what it does by itself, but comes across kind of weakly when there’s a screaming skull-bear tearing Gina Rodriguez’s face off and an albino crocodile trying to kill Tessa Thompson. It feels like this message only really comes up in the last 30 minutes of the film. I don’t think every film or book or piece of art needs to drive home a really specific message or be anything more than entertainment, and I know I’m falling back into judging things based on what they aren’t, but I can’t help but feel like this film could have elevated itself from one of the best sci-fi horror films in years to one of the best sci-fi horror films ever. The result, I guess, is that Annihilation is a sublime film experience, but lacks the same narrative flair.
I also recognize, though, that this is partially because the novel instilled within me a very particular response and message, and maybe my interpretation is distorted as such. So maybe I’m too far gone into this.
My take is as follows, as a said earlier: Annihilation is an all-in-all excellent, memorable movie, but a questionable adaptation. If we’re not talking about the film as an adaptation, my take is as follows: Annihilation is all-in-all an excellent, memorable movie, but a film that fails to have a meaningful and cohesive point underlying it all.