Sunday, 15 April 2018

Annihilation (3 Stars)

The film "Annihilation" has received critical acclaim, but it was a box office failure. Maybe it wasn't supposed to succeed. Netflix bought the rights to it before it was released. It was agreed that it would only be shown in cinemas in America and China; in all other countries it would released straight-to-Netflix, if there's such an expression. Maybe it's called straight-to-digital? That also means that you can buy the film on Blu-ray in America and China, but in all other countries there will be no release on disc. It will only be available to Netflix subscribers.

Natalie Portman stars as Lena, a university biology professor who was formerly a soldier. Her husband Kane, also a soldier, disappears after being away for 12 months on a secret mission. One day he returns home, but he has no memory of anything that happened before he was standing at the door. Within hours he becomes sick, spitting blood, but on the way to hospital the ambulance is intercepted by military police. Both Kane and Lena are taken to a secret army facility.

Lena is told that Kane is the only survivor of a team that went to investigate a natural phenomenon called "The Shimmer". It's a slowly expanding area, surrounded by a shimmering light barrier, the reason for the name. People can walk in, but nobody who enters ever returns. Nobody except Kane, and he can't remember anything. The Shimmer is only growing slowly, but the army fears it will one day cover all America, and eventually all the world.

A team of four women will be sent on the next mission to enter the Shimmer. Lena asks if she can join them, and they agree. Their goal is to visit the lighthouse at the centre of the Shimmer, where it first started. They walk into the Shimmer without any problems. Then they wake up in their tents in a state of confusion. They've been in the Shimmer for three days, but they don't remember setting up their tents or anything they've done in this time.

As the women advance towards the lighthouse they encounter several mutated creatures: crocodiles and bears with unusual features. They also find strange blends of different creatures, such as plants that grow in the shape of men. Lena examines samples and finds that the mutations are at cellular level. Usually when cells divide the two resulting cells are identical. In the mutated creatures, every time a cell divides one of the new cells is the same while the other exhibits random differences. Or maybe they're not so random. Maybe they're being influenced by the cells of nearby organic life.

I'll stop there before I drift off into the land of spoilers.

I like the film's atmosphere. It's slow and creepy, keeping me on the edge of my seat. But the story?

The film is based on a novel, so possibly the screenwriters messed it up in the transition. For me there are too many plot holes and unanswered questions.

Why are there only women in the new team? What's that supposed to achieve?

Why are there memory losses? Why does Kane forget how he got home? Why do the women forget their first three days but remember everything after that?

How can creatures survive after random cell changes? If the cells change the DNA sequence is completely shattered, so the resulting creature couldn't survive.

And plants being influenced by human cells so that they grow in human shape? That's too silly to be true.

If anyone has read the book, please tell me what's going on. The film itself doesn't make sense.

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