Tag Archives: Rotten Tomatoes

Sorry to Bother you

Rating: 4 out of 5 (excellent)

In an alternate depiction of Oakland, California, struggling African American Cassius Green (Lakeith Standfield) lands a telemarketing job where he discovers his ability to project a white voice to customers.

Nicknamed ‘Cash Green’, Cassius Green’s rise from lowly telemarketer to peddler of slave labour unveils the nature of capitalism. At its worst capitalism is a god demanding the sacrifice of the poor and the weak while revelling in its own excesses. From self-motivational nonsense spewed by mangers to the evangelical quest for profit extolled by CEO Steve Lift (Armie Hammer), capitalism never stops demanding more.

Cassius Green’s own position in Sorry to Bother you splits between race and capitalism. Sadly Sorry to Bother you’s commentary about race is blotted out by director Boots Riley’s focus on the cost of neo-liberalism. Yet Cassius’ rise to a power caller among telemarketers is an indication of what African Americans sacrifice to succeed. They must jettison their identity and become a safe caricature to their white compatriots much like Get Out’s plot.

Sorry to Bother you’s plot problematically dissolves into an erratic series of fits and starts, but its conclusion is an uncomfortable vision of where our profit driven culture will lead to. Plenty of jokes appear in the film, but Sorry to Bother you is far from the dark comedy sold by its trailers. The film’s latter half discards all humour and becomes a grim spectacle to behold. Sorry to Bother you will be supped upon by film academics, but viewers should be wary that it diverges from its own advertisements while playing loose with traditional narratives. Moreover many of the jokes within Sorry to Bother you are scathingly quick and can only be appreciated by viewers who have suffered dead-end office jobs.

The most important question asked in Sorry to Bother you is whether art is a conduit for social change or if it is just another commodity. This query unfolds through Cassius’ girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson), a radical artist who lambasts capitalism. Detroit’s Banksy inspired graffiti defaces the adverts of mega company WorryFree, who run a series of work houses for the poor. Cassius later finds one of Detroit’s works within the house of Worry Free’s own CEO Steve Lift, now ripped from a wall and framed in gold. Detroit derides Cassius for losing his own identity and helping WorryFree sell slave labour, yet she too uses a white voice to narrate her exhibition, diminishing her message against exploitation.

An unpolished art-house attack on our modern times, Sorry to Bother you has its problems, but it will make viewers see uncomfortable realities long unaddressed.

By Saul Shimmin

For the trailer, see below:

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Mandy

Rating: 3 out of 5 (good)

Set in 1983 among the unnamed forests of the North Western U.S, Mandy follows gruff logger Red (Nicolas Cage) as an eerie cult leader becomes obsessed with his wife Mandy (Andrea Riseborough). The film is a psychedelic pastiche of 1980’s aesthetics intermingled with Lynchian absurdism and exploitation flicks.

Mandy is contrived for prescribed tastes. The film’s design and events will appeal to followers of Nicolas Cage, 1980’s films and David Lynch. For other viewers Mandy is an enjoyable film which attempts to balance the supernatural alongside a revenge quest. The supernatural aspects of Mandy which dominate the film’s first sixty minutes are superbly crafted. The film is scored by pock marks of visible grain while scenes are swathed in lens flare or stained by colour tints. Strange objects and rituals by the cult seem to be the nightmare spawn of the very pulp fantasy novel Mandy herself enjoys on screen. The cult’s biker gang of enforcers, all heavily inspired by Hellraiser, terrifyingly suggest that cult leader Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache) may have powers after all. Then Mandy is subjected to one scene which dispels all allusions and plonks the plot straight into the well-worn territory of a revenge tale.

Despite a delightfully strange encounter between Red and an LSD dealer later on, Mandy’s supernatural elements devolve into dressing for Red’s quest for retribution. Mandy descends down a particular path which has been better covered by films such as Blue Ruin. Mandy is also plagued later on by details which sadly push the film towards the farcical. Red suffers a fatal wound yet marches on, calmly forging a ridiculous axe and then slicing his way through foes. Red’s transformation from blue collar worker to avenging angel panders to the mad persona affiliated online with Nicolas Cage. Only Cage’s devoted performance stops whole sections becoming ripe meme fodder. Mandy remains enjoyable even if audiences become detached from the film’s events due to either its ridiculousness or the sudden lurches in the plot.

Mandy cannot be damned however for its visuals or its cast. The film faultlessly replicates the feel of John Carpenter films from the 1980’s, as well as borrowing from Manhunter and other contemporary thrillers and horror films. The film is not devoid of uniqueness, with director Panos Cosmatos’ use of lighting, colour and animation converging into an ethereal film of strangeness.  The cast all commit to their roles, with cult members being particularly creepy. Besides Nicolas Cage, Linus Roache is alarming as he displays two symbiotic personalities living inside cult leader Jeremiah.

Mandy is a commendable ode to the grime and the gore of 1970’s and 1980’s cinema, but it is also fairly flawed.

By Saul Shimmin

The Fog

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 (okay)

Nearing its 100th anniversary, the Californian coastal town of Antonia Bay is swept under a supernatural fog, whose lurking terror threatens to reveal bloody secrets long forgotten.

The enduring power of John Carpenter’s best films, from The Thing to Escape From New York stems from their complexity. From multiple narratives to social commentary, Carpenter’s best works remain fresh because they morph into something new with each viewing.

The Fog, by contrast to Carpenter’s classics, is ironically transparent. Directed, scored and partly written by Carpenter himself, The Fog is a shallow thriller which grasps at one idea and overextends that premise into a film. The fog itself, with its connotations of the unknown, could have built a brooding tale of suspense as Frank Darabont provided with 2008’s The Mist. Instead Carpenter focuses upon shipwrecked ghosts who badly mimic slasher horror villains as they butcher the townsfolk. The Fog’s often flat dialogue and variable acting is not compensated by tension or terror despite some decent build ups. John Carpenter strongly displays some of his best direction in the film; especially during the opening sequence where the random acts of ordinary objects create a delicious dread. Despite Carpenter’s visual brilliance, which like ancient alchemy can turn low budget ideas into Hollywood gold, The Fog never becomes an excellent film. The Fog’s biggest problem is that it is neither scary nor engrossing. The film never elicits strong emotional responses or leaves any intrigue in the viewer for a second watch.

Having now watched The Fog and The Prince of Darkness, two of Carpenter’s less remembered works, it is astonishing to see how Carpenter’s ideas have rippled across our zeitgeist. Even his weaker films have shaped or predicated films to come. The Prince of Darkness’ biblical distillation of horror preceded the 1990’s slew of apocalyptic films supping on Christian myth. From the eerie setting of the Silent Hill video games to Netflix’s Stranger Things, The Fog’s distinguishing feature of a town sealed up by something unnatural has been recycled repeatedly. Classic B Movie The Lost Boys borrowed and then developed The Fog’s underused theme of a town bound up by a secret. John Carpenter may at times falter, but his willingness to follow a unique vision has bequeathed a legacy both direct and subtle upon Western cinema.

Despite its flaws, The Fog is enjoyable for Carpenter fans and is a decent film to have in the background on a lazy Sunday.

By Saul Shimmin

For the trailer, see below:

 

 

Assassination Nation

Rating: 4 out of 5 (excellent)

In the aptly named town of Salem, Lily and her three teenage friends feel the brunt of a witch trial as the town’s online secrets are exposed. Assassination Nation is a pleasant surprise which should not be judged by its surface. Suggested by trailers to be an exploitation flick excused by light social commentary, Assassination Nation is actually a damning warning against our internet age.

For all of us, the internet has become our true reality just like the characters of Assassination Nation. The internet is used by Salem’s townsfolk as a facade and the bearer of their dirty secrets. Yet by imprinting both their good and bad aspects online, Salem’s inhabitants risk the wrath of others if their whole selves are ever revealed.

Once the accounts of Salem’s inhabitants are hacked and displayed to the world, the internet ceases to be a haven and becomes a cannibalistic monster as each leak is eaten up by others online. What follows is a vicious cycle of scandal, victimisation and vigilantism as Salem descends into mob rule. Salem’s spiral, both online and in the real world, invokes the perfidiousness of social media. Akin to the events of Assassination Nation, users of YouTube, Twitch and Instagram have risen to fame only to fall and become fodder for the very same platforms.

Mimicking the hyper sexuality displayed across the internet, Lily and her friends reflect the new male gaze. They are openly praised both in person and online for their clothing and being sexually free until it stops suiting men. Once the hacks are released and Salem turns sour, there are uncomfortable scenes as the male dominated mob shame the leading girls. Although difficult to watch, these moments push viewers to honestly consider how men treat women online.

Despite plenty of humour, the highly affected teenage dialogue of Assassination Nation’s young cast, alongside their near constant revelry, is a complete caricature. Looking back as I watched the film, my teenage years were deathly bland by contrast. Maybe I lacked the confidence, money or freedom for teenage misadventure, but even the ‘cooler’ kids at my school were tame compared to Assassination Nation. The glaringly unrealistic behaviour and conversations of Assassination Nation’s youngsters can plunge the viewer back into disbelief.

Weaknesses in director Sam Levinson’s script is compensated by the visual aspects of his story telling. Simple effects, alongside perfectly timed scores and selected songs, add a resonance to events and Lily’s narrative monologues. The screen ribbons into separate columns as teenagers broadcast their personas online during a party. Once the hacks destabilise the town the camera inverts during a long take of a cheerleader rehearsal. The huge American flag in the rehearsal’s background then appears upside down. The flag’s re-positioning is a military signal symbolising that Salem and perhaps the country itself are in distress.

Viewers expecting extensive performances from Bill Skarsgård and Bella Thorne will be disappointed with their brief appearances compared to Assassination Nation’s trailers. Odessa Young is compellingly candid as lead character Lilly but my personal favourite was Hari Nef as transgender student Bex. Bex’s story arc was the most human in Assassination Nation’s manic world.

By Saul Shimmin

For the trailer, see below:

The Prince of Darkness (4K Restoration)

2.5 out of 5 (okay)

Synopsis: Hidden for centuries by the Catholic church in an L.A cathedral, a mysterious container can no longer hold back the force within. An anonymous priest (Donald Pleasance) enlists physics professor Howard Birack (Victor Wong) and his PhD cohort to understand the container before it is all too late.

Jaded by the big Hollywood studios after Big Trouble in Little China, John Carpenter’s The Prince of Darkness is an unsuccessful attempt by the auteur director to return to his low-budget roots. Emulating the siege in Assault on Precinct 13 alongside the hidden enemy of The Thing and Halloween’s sudden scares; The Prince of Darkness is an enjoyable but forgettable sum of Carpenter’s classics.

Despite an overly long title sequence, The Prince of Darkness’ opening act creates a brooding air of tension due to Donald Pleasance’s performance and Carpenter’s direction. The mystery as to what the container holds is slowly teased through environmental design, indirect clues and yet another synth laden score by Carpenter himself. The film’s revelation about the container is an odd mix of Lovecraft, Christianity and quantum physics which loses integrity as The Prince of Darkness morphs into a zombie film. An abrupt ending with a cliff hanger twist also does little to resolve the plot’s lapsing logic.

The Prince of Darkness does frighten and sports moments of typical Carpenter humour, but hammy acting and some truly awful dialogue are glaring flaws. Carpenter’s Halloween has similar problems, but its originality overcomes its weaknesses. Occasionally struggling from a narrative perspective, The Prince of Darkness’ true positive is Carpenter’s direction. Using practical effects and wide-angle lenses, Carpenter creates moments of shock, surrealism and brooding without modern horror’s reliance on blaring sound, big budgets and CGI. At the film’s best moments Carpenter’s camera conjures the same dread in the viewer as Halloween.

Ultimately The Prince of Darkness is a T.V film, something to be half observed by Carpenter fans curious to see a lesser known Carpenter work. Having reserved a month in advance to watch the film’s 4K re-release, The Prince of Darkness was a little underwhelming.

By Saul Shimmin

For the trailer, see below:

Wildlife

Rating: 5 out of 5 (classic)

Set in the waning days of the 1950’s, Wildlife charts the collapsing marriage between Jerry Brinson (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Jeanette Brinson (Carey Mulligan) from the perspective of their 14 year old son Joe ( Ed Oxenbould).

A tale revealed as much by observation as it is told by dialogue, Wildlife boldly promises a bright directorial path for actor Paul Dano in one of my favourite films this year.

Wildlife begins with a forest fire blazing away in the background of the Brinson’s anonymous Montana hometown. The fire is a symbol for the dissolution of Joe’s family life, a destructive phenomenon ignored by the townsfolk and by contemporary American society. Robbed of any support, Joe is subjected to a rude baptism as he learns to care for himself. From grocery shopping to working a job at a photography studio, Joe becomes a man during Wildlife while his parents devolve into children. Director Paul Dano uses the camera to create a visual arc for Joe’s incremental transition into adulthood. Joe’s dawning independence is his means of escape from the decaying nuclear family he belongs to. Told by his boss that photography is capturing a moment of happiness, Joe’s studio subjects become Norman Rockwell paintings of American bliss while his family life degrades further.

Echoing Loveless earlier this year, the parents of Wildlife are absent from their post. Completely self-indulgent, both Jerry and Jeanette personify two differing obsessions under the American Dream, a dream which neither are enjoying at Wildlife’s beginning. Jerry yearns to lead a life of self-reliance. From the first view of his job at a golf course, Jerry is literally at the bottom as he scrapes mud from rich clients’ shoes. Emasculated by his job and put upon by boss, he chokes at the lack of control and the lack of pride his lifestyle gives him. Jeanette wants to advance in the world at any price. Her initial positive attitude mutates into a mid-life crisis as she seeks any means to be better off. Both parents use Joe, directly and indirectly, as panacea for their behaviour throughout the film.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Carey Mulligan are a mesmerising wreck as dysfunctional couple Jerry and Jeanette. Gyllenhaal’s marked absence from Wildlife bestows ample time for Mulligan to steal all attention. Thinner than ever before on screen, Mulligan’s appearance foretells her teetering collapse from Wildlife’s beginning. Events spark Jeanette into a mid-life crisis but Mulligan enthrals as her complicated character begs both for scorn and sympathy. Switching from observer to agent in Wildlife’s events, Ed Oxenbould’s performance as Joe is a quiet fire that suddenly roars by the film’s end.

Enough is given through dialogue to understand Wildlife, yet other elements are added in the film’s visuals and the cast’s actions for the audience to observe and interpret. The combined effect is a story which engages but neither patronises nor penalises viewers if any nuances are overlooked. Outstanding praise is deserved for Wildlife’s score. David Lang’s fluttering composition mimics the ringing joy and melancholy of a lark at dawn, perfectly capturing Joe’s innocence, tragedy and sadness as the adult world swallows him up.

By Saul Shimmin

For the trailer, see below:

 

Hold the Dark

Rating: 4 out of 5 (excellent)

Synopsis: Beckoned to a remote parcel of Alaska to find the wolf which killed a young boy, naturalist and writer Russell Core (Jeffrey Wright) is pulled into something far darker than he could ever imagine.

Blue Ruin, Green Room and now Hold the Dark, director Jeremy Saulnier finds the cracks in the frayed corners across the map of America and dares to look inside.

Burrowing into true crime and pulp fiction, Saulnier’s works reflect the violence and madness of life below society’s safety net and outside the middle-class bubble. Hold the Dark departs from Saulnier’s earlier films to incorporate the supernatural. The graphic violence and gritty forays into the underworld remain, but atop of this milieu sits a thread pulled from Native American mythology. The supernatural element of Hold the Dark is a malingering presence poised to ensnare the unaware. It is a force which, like the world Saulnier distils into his films, is only a breath away from reality and overshadows every character.

Saulnier’s past films abruptly parachute into the lives of their characters, offering unclear direction but ultimately resolving their mysteries. Hold the Dark yields little clarity by its end. The film’s supernatural emphasis creates a shrouded maze of abrupt twists, shifting motives and character revelations. Sporting a narrative crafted to confuse and question, Hold the Dark lacks the immediate immersion of Blue Ruin’s revenge quest or Green Room’s constrained thriller. Yet Hold the Dark has a subtle allure which like the snow swept tundra of its Alaskan setting, hides more below its layers. A second viewing melts away the film’s gruff neo-western exterior. In its place sits a tale of obsession, loneliness, loss and family against Saulnier’s examination of society’s struggle to accept humanity’s base savageness.

From the infinite sea of pines amid the snow to the subdued palette of interior scenes, Hold the Dark is an ode to the wildness of its land, punctured by a shocking shootout at the halfway point. Once the film follows the avenging father Vernon Slone (Alexander Skarsgård), Hold the Dark becomes stranger and more antiquated as the viewer steps into a myth merged with a Cormac McCarthy novel.

Jeffrey Wright and Alexander Skarsgård as protagonist and antagonist create an enticing dichotomy of perspectives. The struggle between the pair is mirrored by James Badge Dale as sheriff Donald Marium and Julian Black Antelope as Cheeon. Both Dale and Antelope unexpectedly give the most outstanding performances from the whole cast.

Not everyone will enjoy this odd mongrel of a film, but it does not deserve to dwell in the digital wilderness of Netflix’s original film collection. If you are a fan of Saulnier’s films, do spread the word, as Netflix is too focused on promoting its edgy remake of Sabrina The Teenage Witch to care about anything else.

By Saul Shimmin

For the trailer, see below;

First Man

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 (very good)

Synopsis: In First Man director Damien Chazelle teams up with Ryan Gosling to tell the story of Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon. Ambitious in scale, First Man’s two narratives charting NASA’s moon program and the life of Neil Armstrong do not quite fit together.

Neil Armstrong, like George Washington and Charles Lindbergh, belongs among the reluctant heroes of American History. Men who achieved great feats and then gracefully retreated to leave mystery in their wake. First Man attempts to focus on the many who made NASA’s Apollo mission possible while also telling the story of Neil Armstrong. In Dunkirk Christopher Nolan uses an anonymous individual as a device to place the viewer amid the scale of war and the stakes of the Dunkirk evacuation. Chazelle attempts to immerse the viewer in the scale and the stakes of NASA’s moon program through Neil Armstrong. By picking Armstrong, a man who is fascinating to explore, Chazelle fails to give both narratives equal attention.  The result is a film of historical accuracy which humanises the enigmatic figure of Armstrong yet feels excessively long.

First Man’s strength is Neil Armstrong the man, deftly played by Ryan Gosling whose manly vulnerability connects with this stoic figure. Chazelle’s plot arc segments the history of spaceflight into Armstrong’s own life. Space becomes a coping mechanism to Armstrong. Each new step Armstrong takes into the heavens brings him closer to overcoming a tragedy unknown to the many that have come to know him. This tragedy defines Gosling’s depiction of Armstrong as both engrossing and endearing as the viewer sees Armstrong grapple with his inner pain.

Chazelle’s reputation as one of the foremost American directors today has gifted First Man with a cast which commands the viewer’s attention. Particular praise should be given to Armstrong’s fellow men on the Gemini and Apollo mission, especially Jason Clark as astronaut Edward Higgins White. All the characters of First Man imbue scale to the scope of the NASA mission, conveying the enormity of pressure upon Armstrong. Yet when the cockpit is sealed and the viewer is trapped alongside Armstrong, the pressure melts away against his fear and his wonder as he peeks through crude Perspex windows into space.

Scale is another weakness in First Man. Cast members become part of the setting like prop figures for a model train set as First Man funnels its attention onto Armstrong. Claire Foy, who was excellent in Unsane, is sadly under-used in First Man. Her character, Janet Armstrong, becomes side-lined into a dead-end sub-plot about the mounting cost of the Apollo mission. First Man goes beyond its natural length to include scenes which are historically accurate but are little more than dead time. By two hours and twenty minutes, the film is its own odyssey to match the moon landing.

First Man is a great film with stellar performances. However if the ten year old who assaulted the back of my chair with his feet is any indication, then some viewers will struggle with First Man’s run-time.

By Saul Shimmin

For the trailer, see below;

Beast

Rating: 4 out of 5 (excellent)

Director: Michael Pearce

Cast: Jessie Buckley, Johnny Flynn, Geraldine James, Trystan Gravelle

Synopsis: Summertime in Jersey, a killer stalks the land, and Beast’s protagonist Moll (Jessie Buckley) flees from her sham birthday and a family which is suffocating her. A chance encounter in her flight causes a budding relationship between Moll and fellow outsider Pascal (Johnny Flynn). Moll’s connection with Pascal is more bad than good, exposing her to the cannibalism of a community frenzied by fear.

Twisting between fairytale and thriller, Beast is a nebulous story laced with layers of meaning. Glancing at the surface, Beast’s setting and tale of loving the monster conjures up Claude Chabrol’s Le Boucher. Yet beyond the veneer Beast is about our latent evil and how forgiveness is a far better weapon of control than guilt. Encapsulated in one visceral act of self-harming, it becomes clear that something is deeply wrong with Moll. Moll’s problem is buried in the past, a sin wielded over Moll by her family to reduce her to the role of valet, nanny and carer. Sin, guilt and regret are nothing new in stories, but what marks Beast is how Moll’s sin has been weaponised through forgiveness. Instead of being reminded of what she has done, Moll is controlled by her mother’s guise of love, friendship and progress.

The name Beast alludes to the animalistic nature of man as family members and authority figures turn against Moll. The  theme is more pronounced among certain characters who symbolise different animals. Moll’s manipulative mother (Gerladine James) is akin to a spider while detective Cliff (Trystan Gravelle) is a bloodhound. The picturesque Jersey setting is also deceptive. The quaint connotations around the tourist spot come tax haven crumbles as Moll and Pascal are pilloried. The rich acquaintances of Moll’s family treat Moll with snickering disdain while the rest of the island condemn her and Pascal as murderers. In his choice of landscapes, the land of Jersey takes on a duality through director Michael Pearce’s vision. Verdant meadows and orchards shining at dawn give way to desolate and eerie fields and swamps. From characters to setting, Beast ensures that nothing is ever clear until the end. Cinematographer Benjamin Kracun’s eye for the land captures the distinctiveness of Britain, contrasting the synthesised depiction of how viewers abroad see the country. Despite all the suffering and trauma that Beast depicts, I could not help seeing the film as one beautifully twisted postcard of Jersey.

Replete with twists and dream sequences, Beast ensnares you in a maze of suspicion from which none are safe. The film is only undermined by a plot straining under its own complexity. Last minutes revelations and surprise twists create an impact laced with an aftertaste of dissatisfaction by upending the plot’s overall narrative of exclusion.

By Saul Shimmin

For the trailer, see below:

 

Annihilation 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 (good)

Director: Alex Garland

Cast: Natalie Portman, Benedict Wong,  Oscar Isaac, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tuva Novotny, Tessa Thompson

Synopsis: U.S. army biologist Lena uncovers a deadly menace, her husband returns from the dead, and an expanding alien zone dubbed ‘the shimmer’ offers the only salvation for Lena’s returned but ailing husband. 

Visually striking, Annihilation has style but lacks originality. Adapted from the self-titled novel, Annihiliation’s bones originate in The Strugatsky Brothers’ ‘Roadside Picnic’. Both stories share an unknown alien zone and mysterious epicentre attracting the flawed and the outcast. Annihilation is an enjoyable but predictable two hour stint that retreads The Strutgatsky Brothers’ seminal novel. Annihilation has trappings of potential; the shimmer is an eloquently bleak depiction of a world devoid of man and the all-female expedition Lena joins hints at a deeper mystery. Yet Annihilation concedes uniqueness for comfort in its final act, peaked by an ambiguous ending that tramples over Lena’s arc. Worse still is that the shimmer is a strange plane, but its vibrancy denies Annihiliation of the insipid eerieness marking Roadside Picnic

Annihilation begins well: a slow-burn pace gradually introduces Lena, the shimmer and Lena’s crew, teasing out the audience’s intrigue. The all-female expedition accompanying Lena consists of brilliant actresses who match Natalie Portman. Tessa Thompson is the polar opposite of the brash Valkeryie she played in Thor: Ragnarok as introverted physicist Josie. Jennifer Jason Leigh is equally impressive as psychiatrist and mission administrator Dr. Ventress. Perceiving everything with detached indifference, Ventress is akin to an automaton, at times acting with bravery while her reactions can exude a menace matching ‘the shimmer’. Ventress’ ambivalent nature and Leigh’s performance steal the focus away from Natalie Portman’s Lena. Initially Lena is a decent protagonist, but the audience’s sympathy for her character is damaged by dream sequences that reveal her nastier side. Annihilation is indirectly narrated by Lena, who is shown in the future, having survived entering the shimmer. Lena’s confirmed existence before Annihilation even unfolds denies tangible investment into her character because no matter the bad things that befall her, the audience already knows that Lena’s fate is secure. The dreams negate Lena’s motivation for entering ‘the shimmer’, thereby flattening Lena’s character into something two-dimensional.  

Annihilation’s efforts to create complexity muddy aspects of the film which would have suited greater simplicity, such as Lena just being an easily relatable woman attempting to save her husband. The result is that Annihilation can feel too clever, with tid-bits sprinkled into the film with no explanation. Unlike Blade Runner whose twists and clues weave into the plot and hint at a deeper meaning, Annihilation is riddled with details left unanswered that feel like forgotten additions. Annihilation can be engrossing when it’s visual clues are developed but Alex Garland’s approach to them is scatter-brained. Annihilation’s plot is exacerbated by intermittently lazy writing. Key points are delivered by a supporting character just stating them in dialogue, with nothing appearing on screen to either convey or develop these ideas. The worst is when one of Lena’s crew simply states that every team member is flawed and then lists their problems. In the next hour nothing proves these flaws, none of the crew crack under the shimmer and turn to their demons for solace. 

There was an opportunity once the team entered the shimmer where Annihilation could have transcended into a great sci-fi film. Awaking in her tent Lena goes outside to find that everyone is unaware of  the past two weeks which have passed since crossing into the shimmer. In this scene, the shimmer was alive, a force that was toying with the team just like everyone else who had entered. Sadly this idea is never developed upon, with Annihilation relying on a few monsters and found footage instead of building up the shimmerThe film does scare but it never creates the haunting otherworldliness of Roadside Picnic.

Annihilation is still an enjoyable sci-fi flick, but in highsight it does not have the complexity that would make it eminently rewatchable like the genre’s greats. 

By Saul Shimmin

For the trailer, see below: