Annihilation, why you’ll love what Paramount rejected

Looking into the sum of all parts that make up Annihilation it is hard to believe that Paramount cashed out and dumped it onto Netflix.

Lena heading her team through the shimmer armed with an assault rifle

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It has all the right ingredients, a stellar cast headed up by the amazing Natalie Portman, a fantastic cutting edge director in Alex Garland—the guy who brought us one of my favourite science fiction films of all time ‘Ex Machina’—and a really great story from the novels by Jeff VanderMeer.

Netflix is the new straight to video. We’ve established this. Not all of their exclusives are total disasters, but sadly the majority are. So how could a film, that on paper looks to be a potential blockbuster, be sent straight to the shelves of the virtual video store?

No theatrical release?

Rumour has it there was a massive falling out between the producers. Scott Rudin, who was behind ‘The Social Network’ and David Ellison who delivered recent thought provoking classics ‘Geostorm’ and ‘Terminator: Genisys’ (sarcasm).

Apparently Ellison, the Geostorm guy, who obviously wrote the book on how to produce cinematic masterpieces (again, sarcasm), deemed the movie “too complicated and intellectual” and because of this wanted to dumb down the characters and change the ending. Rudin, The Social Network guy, wasn’t having a bar of it and thankfully Geostorm guy didn’t have his way with the characters, or the ending.

The reason why was because director Alex Garland, thanks largely to his excellent work on Ex-Machina was given final cut by Paramount, meaning no changes could be made to the film without his explicit permission.

So Paramount shit the bed, panicked and sold the movie to Netflix to try and recoup on the $55 million they fronted to pay to have the movie made. Now from a business perspective that was probably a safe move because, with its limited cinematic release in the States, it didn’t do that well.

Mind you, it probably wasn’t given a huge promotional push either.

Paramount also had a shitty run last year with stinkers like, Transformers: The Last Knight, Baywatch and Ghost in The Shell pretty much fucking up their revenue stream and running them at a loss.

But, given that none of their safe bets paid off, why not change strategy and actually attempt to push something original, creative and thought provoking onto their audience? Instead we got the same old shit that—based on their profit margin—people seem sick to death of.

Paramount’s loss is our gain, Annihilation is original, creative and thought provoking. It’s one of those movies that doesn’t treat you like you’re five and leaves you a bit of room to form your own thoughts on the story, and I like that.

The story

A meteorite crashes to earth and unleashes some kind of matter that alters the environment. It wreaks havoc with the cellular structure of organic material, including people, causing pretty much everything within its area of affect to mutate. It’s area of effect looks like some kind of distorted force field know as The Shimmer.

The government have sent people into the Shimmer to study and report on it, but no one has come out, and The Shimmer, is expanding. So there’s a fear that it will eventually swallow up the entire planet.

It’s reminiscent of the Arrival, Alien, the Thing, and if you’re a gamer you’ll definitely see shades of The Last of Us in this film. It’s not overly derivative of any of those aforementioned works though, and it very much stands on its own.

The cast

Natalie Portman plays Lena, a former soldier and now biologist. Her husband Kane played by Oscar Issac is an active duty soldier who has gone missing while on a classified mission. When Lena’s not immersed in her work she is trying to come to terms with this incredible loss, that due to the mystery surrounding Kane’s disappearance, is devoid of any closure.

With nothing to lose she teams up with psychologist Dr Ventress played by Jennifer Jason Leigh; physicist Josie Radek, played by Tessa Thompson; anthropologist Cassie Shephard, played by Tuva Novotny and paramedic Anya Thorenson, played by Tina Rodriguez. They set off into the shimmer to uncover it’s mystery, and during the course of the film we work out that all the characters are indeed a little bit broken in their own special ways.

The verdict

It’s so much more than a science fiction thriller, it explores themes of guilt, self destruction and how our past shapes our future. It is beautifully directed by Alex Garland, who takes his time to progress the story without overstaying it’s welcome. The visuals are outstanding, the delivery is top notch and the story, much like Ex-Machina, is a breath of fresh air in a room full of recycled mainstream farts.

Natalie Portman is so good in this movie. She puts in a cracking performance that is bolstered by her excellent supporting cast. And it is fucking awesome to see a bunch of smart female characters, who are so much more than eye candy, thrive within this story. They’re an intelligent, diverse group of scientists, and they’re going into the Shimmer to sort shit out, because they’re the best at what they do and no one else before them could.

I’ve not read Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, but now that I’ve seen Annihilation I’m tempted. Except that I’d be doing so in the knowledge that one of the many things Bogans like, according to the reference material, is to read the book after they’ve seen the movie.

Not sure how I feel about that, but I did feel good watching a Netflix exclusive movie that didn’t suck. Annihilation gets 4 out of 5.


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