Based on the book by Jeff VanderMeer, Annihilation follows an expedition team – made up of a biologist, an anthropologist, a psychologist, a surveyor, and a linguist – that enter a mysterious quarantined zone filled with mutating landscapes and creatures. Natalie Portman plays the biologist, whose husband (Oscar Isaac) is the only person to have entered and returned, albeit different.
Early reviews have going online, and it’s clear that Garland’s sophomore directorial effort is another winner. Solid to rave reviews abound, with critics describing the film as an affecting, scary and thought-provoking piece of science fiction.
Here’s a glimpse at what’s being said…
A psychological mystery laced with environmental disaster and alien-scary juju, Alex Garland’s elegantly unsettling Annihilation is here to shake up your night at the movies in the most mind-bendy way possible, but without foregoing the pleasures of an ambitious sci-fi entertainment.
For those willing to put in the effort, Annihilation achieves that rare feat of great genre cinema, where audiences are not merely thrilled (the film is both intensely scary and unexpectedly beautiful in parts) but also feel as if their minds have been expanded along the way…
Annihilation is a ferocious, feral, female-centric update of fearsome monster classics like The Thing and Alien. […] Alex Garland shows an unerring hand in building a sense of unease about what evil lurks in a forest that’s been taken over by some kind of “other,” and then making it pay off. Fright fans as well as connoisseurs of seriously good filmmaking should turn this finely tuned thriller into a much-needed hit for Paramount…
Where Ex Machina argued that the machines are a few steps ahead of us, Annihilation suggests that the universe is even further along. At once a gripping jungle survival thriller and an alluring sci-fi puzzle, Garland’s heady gambit confirms he’s one of the genre’s best working filmmakers.
It’s hugely refreshing, and remarkably uncommon, to watch a genre film that revolves around intelligent characters reacting intelligently to fantastical events. […] It’s scary at times but then also contemplative and opaque and the intriguing ending will prove divisive. […] Annihilation is more than mere visuals and it will shock, fascinate and haunt audiences, whatever screen it’s watched on.
Now, as for the way the film is being released…
The film is being released in U.S. cinemas on February 23 and will also be released theatrically in China, but will be hitting the rest of the world – including Australia – on Netflix on March 12.
It was a surprising distribution move on behalf of Paramount, one that, according to THR, came as a result of studio concern: how to release a challenging mid-budget picture following the lacklustre performances of Mother!, Suburbicon and Downsizing. So there was that, but perhaps more importantly, there was the reported clash between producers Scott Rudin and David Ellison.
The film had seen a poor test screening and, as a result, Ellison wanted to make it less “intellectual” and “complicated” and pushed for a number of changes – including tweaking Portman’s character and reworking the ending – to make it more appealing to a wider audience. Rudin, on the other hand, had final cut, and he refused to budge. At least on the critical spectrum, it sure appears that Rudin had the right idea.
Paramount recently made a similar distribution deal with Netflix for The Cloverfield Paradox, which the studio though too risky to give a wide-reaching theatrical release. Netflix entered the picture, reportedly offering over $US50 million for the rights to stream it as a Netflix Original. Considering the film had cost $US40 million to produce, an amount that had blown up from the planned $US5 million, Paramount made the right choice.