Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Annihilation is the greatest movie of all time

Holy shit. This movie was crazy. This movie has everything: self-immolation with a grenade, bears that absorb the screams of the people they maul, a phosphorescent technicolor yawn, shimmer people interpretive dancing. That's that thing where your shimmer doppelganger mimes you  as you flop with your hands over your head like a European NBA player circa 2001. Everyting. This is why it is the greatest movie of all time.

What the fuck from beginning to end is a fucking starting off point. I can't stop thinking about it. It was great. Probably won't ever watch it again though.

Rotten Tomato Consensus: Annihilation backs up its sci-fi visual wonders and visceral genre thrills with an impressively ambitious -- and surprisingly strange -- exploration of challenging themes that should leave audiences pondering long after the end credits roll.

Pros: Fucking beautiful. The fake nature stuff was awesome in that Avatar way except it's going to hold up 10 years down the line. Super trippy (microdosing may seem like a good idea but do not microdose for this movie, speaking from experience here). Super engrossing.

Cons: Ending is vague. Intentionally confusing. An extremely distressing movie going experience. If you can't deal with that shit, this not your type of movie.

Good time to remind everyone that I spoil the shit out of everything so watch out. Here are my "hot takes", as the kiddies say...

Gist of the movie is a group of women led by physiologist Jennifer Jason Leigh (Single White Female, The Hateful Eight) go into a shimmering anomaly that engulfs several square miles of coastline somewhere in the southern United States. In this mysterious and dangerous area, DNA mutates and refracts creating unpredictable creatures and reeks havoc on all who enter. The movie stars Natalie Portman who joins the expedition after her husband, played by Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Star Wars: The Last Jedi), shows up after returning as the sole survivor of a previous mission into the "Shimmer". Once in, shit be cray. Also in the flick are Tuva Novotny whom I've never seen before in my life, Gina Rodriguez whom I've also never seen, and Tessa Thompson (Creed, Thor: Ragnarok, Westworld) who is mad hot right now. It was written and directed by one Alex Garland (Ex Machina) who wrote dope screenplays and books before directing, and was adapted from the novel of the same name by Jeff VanderMeer. I guess it veers wildly from the book which I haven't read. One thing I heard about the book which I wish would have been kept as is was that the singularity was completely unexplained. It was just suddenly there and spreading. Here it was something from space.

Ground zero looking super exciting
The movie is deliberately confusing. We are sort of made to feel like the characters that have gone into the shimmer. They say it feels like they are all in the early stages of dementia or something like that which is the vibe we get. Getting info in fragments and without context. We get little chunklets that shed some light on what is going down but this leads to more questions. This is movie that requires active participation from the viewer. I feel like most of the answers are there but you have to connect the dots yourself.

I've seen the movie mostly compared to Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey with the whole surreal/abstract finale and dissonant/alarming music, John Carpenter's The Thing because of the terrifying unnatural creatures with the bear and the body horror of the fungus/plant man in the pool, Alien for obvious reasons (it is the sci-fi/horror movie that they all aspire to after all), and Solaris with the whole question of am I really who I think I am (literally) among scientists undergoing emotional crises and doppelgangers. I thought it was also James Cameron sci-fi porn. Like Aliens it has the paramilitary group going into the unknown and getting picked off one by one. Like The Abyss we have an alien being mimicking terrestrial life while also threatening to annihilate it. Like Avatar with the insane visuals and people willing becoming the other. And it had Sphere DNA as well with the whole investigating the origins of a mysterious shimmering thing that brings nightmares to life.

It was its own thing too: refracting themes and images from those films for what is a fresh and demented shift for the sci-fi/horror genre. For sure it was unsettling but in a way that was alien. Two scenes--the one involving the bear and the one involving the liquid metal dancer person--were unpleasant in part because of how unreal and unimaginable they were. During the screaming bear attack scene where the most unhinged of the four ladies that had survived to that point had tied the other three up when this bear shows up having already killed one (maybe two) of them and was aping that woman's death screams with easy access with all of them in restraints, I tried to put myself in that position and my brain went to shit. That shit really disturbed me. It was fucked. Did not like. Then at the end with the shimmering mime/doppelgangers, did not like that either. That starts out with one of most beautiful fucking things I have ever seen. It was an indescribably beautiful mound of light and color that moved like liquid.

The movie hinges on the concept of self-destruction. We are all doing it, the movie says as I sip a frozen coke, eating Cadbury Mini Eggs while on little bit of acid. Raw, organic vegetables for me from now on. The psychologist of the bunch explains that people rarely commit suicide. Rather they destroy their relationships, smoke, drink, freak out at work, so forth, and these things lead to our demise. It's in our DNA, she argues. And here we have a group that is not so well adjusted going into this singularity, a lighthouse, where the shimmer started. This is the most dangerous point imaginable. The parallels to Chernobyl are striking and disturbing with the fluid mass of color sort of  resembling the elephant's foot (the radioactive made up of nuclear fuel, melted concrete, sand, and core shielding that melted and flowed together) at the base of the reactor that went full meltdown and is also deadly as shit. Anyway, the ending is highly interpretive but it seems that Portman's character is the real version of herself with altered DNA. Her eyes shimmer (which leads some people to think this is a clone but I don't see how that is possible or makes sense), she has another chick's tattoo, and she is no longer self-destructive (it is implied) though she does destroys the doppelganger version of herself. She overcame that genetic defect (assuming it is actually encoded in our DNA [I have no idea]) and has now self-actualized or whatever. Now she's not going to bone any of her coworkers (she was cheating on her dude with another professor) and is going going to go live with her husband's doppelganger happily ever after. And that is Annihilation. Great flick.

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