It's time to enter the Shimmer, as Alex Garland's Annihilation has arrived on 4K/blu-ray. If you missed out on the trippy, and engaging science fiction film, it's a stunning home entertainment release that's definitely worth picking up. Come inside for my full review!
For some reason, Paramount didn't have much faith in Annihilation. Fearing the movie would be too slow and more of a "thinking" movie, the studio killed virtually all its marketing and slipped it quietly into a limited number of theaters. Hell, they didn't even release it overseas, instead putting it straight to Netflix in foreign markets.
As such, there's a very good chance you didn't have the opportunity to see Annihilation in theaters. It's a bummer because something tells me this film would have been truly amazing to see on the big screen. Ostensibly, the film is based on the book of the same name, though it sounds like there were quite a few differences between them.
The story is told through a series of varied flashbacks as biology professor Lena (Natalie Portman) is being debriefed on the events that happened to her and her team once they entered the "Shimmer." It's a strange anomaly that is growing to take over more and more land, transforming it along the way. No one who's entered the Shimmer to try and learn more has ever returned...Except Lena's husband. His mysterious return on Lena's doorstep (she thought him dead for over a year) and subsequent illness, prompts Lena to join the investigation team.
Along with a handful of other female scientists, they enter the Shimmer to reach the source of the anomaly, where Lena hopes to find answers to what happened with her husband, and how to save him. Needless to say, things go horribly wrong, as they discover the Shimmer is transforming the land/animals around them in a strange, otherworldly, mutations they cannot explain. Moreso, the longer they’re inside, the more their sanity seems to slip. As they struggle with monstrous creatures and their own fears, they must find a way to trust one another and discover the truth behind it all.
The movie is very much an intellectual story that challenges you to think and examine everything that you see. It’s a reflection of what the characters are going through as well, wherein they have to use their brains and wits to survive in the alien environment. In this way, the film does an excellent job of making you feel like you’re experiencing the same events as the characters, subtly putting you in their mindset.
This pays off exceptionally well when the monster/horror elements begin to come in. There are some serious nightmare inducing scenes, but they’re more about unsettling the viewer, rather than trying simply scare the crap out of you. Between the acting prowess, the stunning visual design elements, and a solid script, Annihilation is an excellent Science Fiction movie that will keep you thinking about it long after the credits roll. Once again, Alex Garland proves he’s a master of the genre and it’s worth watching in the highest quality you can.
Sight and Sound
Take a glance at any of the film’s trailers, and you’ll know that this movie is a visual delight. As such, it’s 4K release is just about enough to melt your eyeballs. Saying that the film is gorgeous is something of an understatement. The colorful design choices within the Shimmer really make it feel like something entirely alien and new, while the stark tones and angles for the flashbacks taking place in the “real” world evokes the feeling of fear and loneliness.
Every visual choice in the film goes to serve the story and characters, with as much of the plot coming out visually as through dialog. It’s a great storytelling choice and watching it on 4K is just so damn satisfying. It’s an excellent transfer that lets everything shine through in crystal clarity while still featuring deep blacks that don’t crush.
In terms of sound, much of the same attention was paid to it’s design/transfer as the visuals. The subtle sounds of the forest within the Shimmer makes it come alive in a visceral way and the Dolby soundtrack does a great job of highlighting everything. The dialog is still given proper priority while the ambient sounds keep you invested in the world. From a technical standpoint, the 4K and blu-ray are impressive.
The Bonus Features
Annihilation comes loaded with these special features on the disc:
Part 1 – SOUTHERN REACH
Refractions - See how director Alex Garland created the tone, textures and color palettes for the various film environments on set.
For Those That Follow - Listen to the cast’s perspective on their roles and learn why they found the story so intriguing.
Part 2 – AREA X
Shimmer - See how filmmakers transformed real set locations to create the world of Annihilation.
Vanished into Havoc - Check out all the action as cast and crew walk you through the mind-blowing stunts and special effects.
Part 3 – TO THE LIGHTHOUSE
Unfathomable Mind - Learn why the visual effects are integral to achieving director Alex Garland’s overall vision for Annihilation.
The Last Phase - Listen to the cast and crew share their fondest memories from filming Annihilation.
All of the features on the disc, divided up in handy chapters, focus on different aspects of the film’s production. The result is a fairly comprehensive behind the scenes look at how Alex Garland and crew made the adaptation. If you’re a movie buff who likes to see how these things get made (like me), these are really a treat to enjoy. Hell, even if you’re just curious as to how they pulled this trippy film together, they’re worth a watch.