If you’re looking for a compelling, thrilling, gorgeous movie to really captivate you and keep you on the edge of your seat, Annihilation it is. But if you’re looking for a compelling, thrilling, gorgeous movie to really captivate you and keep you on the edge of your seat and answer all your burning questions, Annihilation it is not.
Alex Garland’s latest movie (following up Ex Machina which he wrote and directed back in 2015), tells the story of a mysterious ~thing~ that suddenly appears out of nowhere and is growing. This thing is called “the Shimmer,” and when you go into it, you don’t come out of it. However, ex-special forces Kade (Oscar Isaac) has made it out alive and now his wife Lena (Natalie Portman) wants answers: What is it, what is inside of it, and can Kade be saved? So Lena and a team of four badass women head inside and discover…stuff.
Right from the get go, let me tell you none of those questions are answered, not even remotely. You think you are about to get answers, and then the movie is like “and also people can turn into plans,” and you’re like, “excuse me, but I have 400 followup up questions.” Don’t get me wrong, Annihilation is breathtaking to watch. However, it is also downright infuriating because there are so many loose ends by the time the credits roll.
Is it intentional, to make you think? Or are there really not answers to ANYTHING happening inside the Shimmer? Please, read on, if you want to deal with spoilers and my frustration upon leaving the theater:
1. How does no one else realize the Shimmer is a real thing? According to the scientists in the movie, people used to live in the Shimmer, but they’ve been evacuated and now no one lives anywhere near it. That’s fine, but how does the rest of the world not know about this place? Is it a no fly zone? Aren’t people curious as to what the hell is going on over here?
2. Why can no one remember the passage of time? As soon as the ladies make it into the Shimmer, they immediately forget everything. One day, they just wake up and believe they’ve been inside for a handful of days already since some of their food is missing. As far as I can tell, this phenomena never happens again, and it is never referenced again.
3. Why are the animals mutating? An alligator with shark’s teeth attacks Josie and Lena is like “wow, cross breeding.” Okay, but how and why? Alligators and sharks are not native to this area so just…what the hell.
4. Why are some of the animals mutating and others are…not? There’s also a terrifying bear at one point, that looks scary AF, but as far as I could tell, it was just a scary AF bear. It wasn’t like bear that could also shoot lasers out of its eyes. Why was the bear not cool enough to mutate, too??
5. How does everyone’s electronic device stay charged FOREVER? The ladies find a hand-held video recorder and turn it on to watch some video footage from the last expedition. It’s not clear how long this video recorder has been here, but considering I can’t go ten hours without having to charge my iPhone, it is 100% unlikely this video recorder has any sort of juice months later.
6. What was up with the swirling intestines in that dude?? On the video recorder with the forever-battery, the ladies find footage of a dude whose insides are spinning around like a tilt-a-wheel. I am uneasy just thinking about it, and also it’s never explained. Sorry, buddy!
7. Why did that dude grow into a terrifying, giant corpse? The same dude with the spinning insides then…well, the only way I can explain it is to say he turned into an over-sized zombie and then seeped into the wall and also like, calcified. Also somehow his jaw became detached from his head.
8. What’s with the holes in the ground? There’s a hole in this dude with the spinning insides, and then later Lena climbs into a hole in the ground to a secret cavern and maybe don’t climb into holes in the ground in the Shimmer?
9. How did Lena manage to carry around a microscope without shattering it into a million pieces? Halfway through the movie, Lena whips out a microscope and hold on girl, you’ve been carrying that around *this whole time*? She has been running, and climbing, and trekking, and shooting, and HOW is it still in one piece?
10. Why does Jennifer Jason Leigh only talk in the lowest monotone voice ever? Doesn’t really have anything to do with the plot, but her voice is just very unnerving, okay?
11. Why does Josie turn into a plant *at that exact moment*? Out of the blue Tessa Thompson’s Josie is like, “I think I am going to say here,” and then wanders into a field and disappears. We are meant to assume she becomes a plant, I shit you not.
12. And furthermore, what is up with the plant people? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
13. What’s up with the crystal trees? When Lena finally gets to the lighthouse (okay so hold on, back up, the entire team is trying to get to the lighthouse where the alien-meteor-shimmer first hit…and actually, we don’t have time to get into this, just go with it) there are crystalized trees all around it. …sure!
14. HOW. DOES. EVERYTHING. HAVE. SO. MUCH. BATTERY. LIFE. SURPRISE, Kade left a video recorder for Lena inside the lighthouse, and even though it’s maybe been there for a YEAR or something, it still has full power. In the time writing this post, my iPhone lost 5% battery life.
15. How does Lena break from her light reflection bad guy to manage to hand them the bomb and like…escape? A second Lena is created via a drop of blood (???) and then Lena and Second Lena fight to the death. Second Lena mimics Lena’s movements, because she’s a reflection. But when Lena decides to destroy everything, she pulls the pin on a bomb and Second Lena doesn’t make any sort of movement at all, even though Lena escapes out of the lighthouse. It does not make sense. I think I just went momentarily insane writing the prior paragraph.
16. How does Evil Oscar Isaac recover, even though the rest of the alien stuff is destroyed? Surprise, Evil Oscar Isaac is actually the one who came out of the Shimmer, and even though the Shimmer is destroyed — along with what we’re meant to assume is his life support — he is just FINE? HOW?
17. Which Lena comes out of the Shimmer — good or bad Lena? The end of the movie implies that Lena is not all there anymore, as we see her eyes flicker a little bit. So is she the original Lena, or Second Lena?
18. Do you think Benedict Wong had fun shooting this movie? Benedict Wong is in the movie, and he’s great, because he just stands in a hazmat suit the entire time and questions Natalie Portman, who sits in a chair. I hope he had the time of his life making this movie.
19. So the bad guy was…light reflection? The biggest unanswered question is just THE SHIMMER in general. It’s sort of explained, but not really, because it’s a prism? It’s a reflection? It’s evil? But it’s not really hurting people? And it’s destroyed? But not all of it because Evil Kane is fine and Lena might be affected by it too?
Annihilation is bonkers, friends. Go see Annihilation.