It's no secret that Netflix has changed the world of TV production. And with streaming services now commonplace, Netflix has been turning its attention to movies. It recently struck a massive deal by scoring the international distribution rights to Alex Garland's sci-fi thriller Annihilation. But before that happens, it'll be released domestically by Paramount in just a few days' time. Anticipation for the film has been at a high, even in the midst of a whitewashing controversy. That scandal may end up in the film's rear view, as the critical response for Annihilation is unanimously high.
This includes us here at CinemaBlend. Our own Eric Eisenberg gave Annihilation a perfect 5-star rating, praising director Alex Garland's sophomore work. While the film has some truly terrifying visuals, it's one that ill be great on the rewatch.
Annihilation is perfect proof that that he is the real deal as a director and visionary -- not only creating a world that you will fall right into, but one that's so fascinating that you'll want to investigate it over and over. It's been a long wait since Ex Machina, but Garland proved it was worth it.
Indeed, many of the reviews are focused on what Alex Garland managed to do following his triumphant debut in Ex Machina.Annihilation's moments of horror and intense visuals are also being equated to Darren Aronofsky's mother! But unlike that film, it appears that Annihilation managed to do those moments of terror true justice. Take it from USA Today's Brian Truitt:
With his debut Ex Machina, an extraordinary study of artificial intelligence and human fallacy, Garland showed potential as a true sci-fi visionary and takes his next step with Annihilation. Some moviegoers will dig Annihilation's audacity, others may find it the craziest flick since mother! It's a completely bizarre tale that will leave heads spinning about what exactly just happened but still finds a way to be genuinely satisfying.
That being said, there are some aspects of Annihilation that critics have taken umbrage with. The film uses non-linear storytelling, but that also means that audiences will know who lives and dies by the film's conclusion. IGN's Jim Vejvoda had this to say:
One of Annihilation's biggest drawbacks is its framing device, which reveals right away which team members live and die. This decision often robs their journey through the Shimmer of some much needed suspense. While there is still a big mystery for Lena and the audience to unravel, the loss of any bit of tension, surprise or emotional involvement in an already slow-burn and remote film is frustrating.
Just a week or so ago, Annihilation was involved in another one of Hollywood's whitewashing controversies. In the original novel's sequel, Natalie Portman's character Lena turned out to be an Asian woman. This led to a conversation about whether director Alex Garland should have given the role to another actress. But Variety's Peter Debruge actually thinks that even comparing the novel and film is counterproductive.
To call Annihilation an "adaptation" doesn't really do either the book or the film justice. Written before the sequels even existed, Garland's script seizes on key ideas from VanderMeer's novel, but spins them in entirely new directions, using the source as a kind of leaping-off point (even the opening meteor detail is a bit of a departure, albeit one with rich other-worldly implications) from which five tough women have a chance to make first contact with this alien presence, and perhaps save the human race in the process.
_Annihilation'_s visuals and scares definitely seem to be a highlight for critics. While CinemaBlend's own Eric Eisenberg nearly hyperventilated during one sequence, The Guardian's Benjamin Lee praised how the scary moments were balanced with calm and character driven storylines.
Tonally there's a lot here but it never feels overstuffed or incongruously meshed together. There are some gruesomely well-orchestrated scenes of body horror (one particular dissection is nightmarishly staged) and Garland's knack for gonzo imagery ensures that so many scenes in the film will make a lasting impression.
This type of praise was also given by The Wrap's Robert Abele, who admitted that the crux of the story could sometimes be lost with all the fun.
In other words, you may forget there's a marriage at stake at the end of Annihilation when the ingredients list includes explosions, crystal trees and fire, but Garland hasn't. He wisely ends his agreeably trippy nature-horror flick with something disconcertingly modest: characters in a room sizing each other up. Because when it comes to lurching into the unknown, and risking being changed, who needs the Shimmer when we've always had other people?
You can judge for yourself when Annihilation arrives in theaters on February 23, 2018. In the meantime, check out our 2018 release list to plan your next trip to the movies.