|The scientists explore the Shimmer|
Ex-soldier Lena (Natalie Portman) has not seen her husband, Kane (Oscar Isaac of X-Men: Apocalypse) for a year, when he walks into their home in a daze. Lena discovers that Kane was the only person to ever make it out from an area called the Shimmer, a strange zone that is inexplicably spreading outward from a lighthouse and if unchecked may envelop the whole planet. With a group of female scientists, Lena decides to enter this twilight zone (pardon me) herself, if only to find out what happened to her husband inside and what may be still affecting him. With an interesting premise and a promise of some emotional pay-offs, Annihilation should have been a worthwhile picture, but despite some interesting concepts -- as well as ideas recycled from everything from Invasion of the Body Snatchers to Alien -- the picture is pretty much sunk by a snail's pace, a weak script with both undeveloped characters and ideas, and direction that utterly strips the film of any dramatic punch it may have had potential for. There are mutated creatures, people's minds being screwed up, some quick gore cuts and the like, an occasional burst of minor excitement, but virtually no pay off, and the lethargic score doesn't help one bit. The actors do the best they can with material that may seem (pseudo) intellectual but is actually trite, and the average episode of Star Trek has more suspense. The frequent flashbacks and flash-forwards only pull the viewer out of the main storyline and do nothing to help sustain the creepy atmosphere. Annihilation does get points for being visually striking at times, but that's hardly enough to make this a winner. Admittedly, with some films you're willing to suspend disbelief, but with this picture we're asked to accept that these women, most of whom are scientists, would be sent into the Shimmer without military escorts and without contamination suits on (or even , heck, a rope and pulley with which they can be pulled back out of the zone in an emergency). There is no major military or government presence as you would expect in such a dire situation. It's as if Garland, afraid of making a "typical" sci fi thriller, stripped his movie of sheer common sense, not to mention thrills. Natalie Portman [Jackie] should choose her material with more care, and Jennifer Jason Leigh is positively weird -- too weird -- as Dr. Ventress; neither woman is seen to good advantage in this stinker. This reminds one a lot of Arrival, another recent mediocre science fiction film.
Verdict: Even something like The Atomic Submarine is a lot more fun. **.