15 votes

A couple of thoughts about Annihilation (2018)

Just finished Annihilation. Decided to share some random thoughts:

The film looks absolutely stunning. Perfect blend of beautiful and horrifying. But the characters… ugh. They are your classical horror film bunch of idiots. And, as per tradition with the modern sci-fi horror, they're supposed to be “scientists”. Bah.

It seems like both the screenplay and the visuals were heavily inspired by Roadside Picnic by the Strugatsky brothers, and possibly Andrei Tarkovsky's film adaptation, Stalker (1979), as well as a bit of his other sci-fi work, Solaris (1972), here and there. Honestly, if you like the idea of “alien shit twisting stuff around it”, and you like reading, you're way better off just reading Roadside Picnic.

Why didn't most trees change? The flowers, the moss, and the animals get all kinds of wild twisted colours and mutations, but the trees remain just green? That really bothered me. They also don't mention all this mutated flora and fauna going outside “the zone”, which, I assume, would be a giant issue.

That lighthouse would be so destroyed if it was really hit by an object of that diameter.

I found it ironic that the psychologist of the team was the one who was severely depressed. Here in Russia we call that a “barefoot cobbler” situation. But the way the film shows severe depression is pretty accurate.

Overall, I reluctantly enjoyed the film, but I couldn't stop thinking that all those visual effects and designs would be much more amazing in a Strugatsky bros. adaptation film.

6 comments

  1. [3]
    Akir
    Link
    Honestly, I don't have the words to explain this movie. Just watch this. It will make you appreciate what they were trying to do (even though I feel the messaging is a bit too obtuse either way).

    Honestly, I don't have the words to explain this movie. Just watch this. It will make you appreciate what they were trying to do (even though I feel the messaging is a bit too obtuse either way).

    5 votes
    1. [2]
      SleepyGary
      Link Parent
      Agreed when I watched the movie I viewed a few of these videos trying to explain it afterwards and I was never satisfied with their literal interpretations I'm glad I found the folding ideas one...

      Agreed when I watched the movie I viewed a few of these videos trying to explain it afterwards and I was never satisfied with their literal interpretations I'm glad I found the folding ideas one it really confirmed a lot of the suspicions I had by exploring the metaphor and pointing out a bunch of the stuff I had not consciously registered and tying it together with the ones that I had. It really helped me overcome the original disdain for the too stupid to live trope I had that OP here is observing.

      I agree that the messaging is a bit too obtuse but begs the questions was it intentionally obtuse so that people would get it and/or did so many of us miss it because it went too far.

      3 votes
      1. Akir
        Link Parent
        It's kind of funny to see this kind of problem. Artists (writers in particular) seem to often dumb down their work because they underestimate the audience, and their art suffers for it. But when...

        It's kind of funny to see this kind of problem. Artists (writers in particular) seem to often dumb down their work because they underestimate the audience, and their art suffers for it. But when the artist overestimates the audience, they often have no idea how to parse what they just experienced. It reminds me of how many people hated the ending of AI: Artificial Intelligence because of the misunderstanding that the beings that show up in the final act are aliens.

        In AI's case, I blame it on the audience for not paying enough attention; the narrator explains exactly what the beings are. In Annihilation's case, I blame the creators. It is absolutely possible to have metaphors that reach out into the logic and visuals of film, but this film in particular does not do enough to establish that what is happening on screen is metaphor. I certainly took the film literally until practically the very last moment when the main character comes into contact with the alien being. But by that point, I had missed so much of the structure and messaging that I could not understand what it was that I was being shown. Bringing Science in the picture is also usually a flag that one should take what is happening as literal.

        1 vote
  2. [2]
    mat
    Link
    I assume you weren't aware the film is adapted from the book Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer? The movie missed most of the main thrust of the book and to be honest, the book wasn't even that...

    I assume you weren't aware the film is adapted from the book Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer? The movie missed most of the main thrust of the book and to be honest, the book wasn't even that strong to begin with. Vandermeer has some great short story ideas which he then turns into novels and they end up sort of meh as a result. The characters in the book aren't stupid but it's hard to convey just how mind-altering Area X is onscreen without doing lots of cheesy voiceover/narration and even that wouldn't work. I thought it was a very strange choice of book to try adapting.

    Overall I didn't enjoy the film much. It had a few moments but that was about it.

    4 votes
    1. ainar-g
      Link Parent
      I was actually aware of it, but I didn't mention it, because I haven't read the book, so I wouldn't be able to comment on whether it was better or not.

      I was actually aware of it, but I didn't mention it, because I haven't read the book, so I wouldn't be able to comment on whether it was better or not.

      2 votes
  3. cfabbro
    (edited )
    Link
    Yeah, Annihilation definitely felt like an Americanized movie adaptation of Roadside Picnic (which I also highly recommend people read) to me too, but IMO it was not nearly as good as Stalker...

    Yeah, Annihilation definitely felt like an Americanized movie adaptation of Roadside Picnic (which I also highly recommend people read) to me too, but IMO it was not nearly as good as Stalker (which we are coincidentally talking about in another ~movies topic).

    They are your classical horror film bunch of idiots. And, as per tradition with the modern sci-fi horror, they're supposed to be “scientists”. Bah.

    That was my biggest gripe with the movie. I absolutely despise the Too Dumb To Live trope in horror movies, but it's especially bad in scifi horror where the characters often really should know better given their scientific/explorer backgrounds. The absolute worst recent examples of this I can think of are in the new Ridley Scott Alien movies, where almost every character in them seems to consistently make the absolute worst decisions possible every step of the way. E.g. Exploring an alien world and find a weird new alien black goo creature? I got a great idea... I should touch it with my bare hands! <facepalm>

    Why didn't most trees change?

    Budget, most likely. CGI is still pretty expensive, as is filming entirely in a sound-stage with 100% custom designed/built props. Which is why I can typically look past shortcomings like that, but bad writing (esp of characters' motivations, decision-making, and actions) is pretty inexcusable, regardless of budget, IMO.

    3 votes