Annihilation - Hope

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No easy task. Our only clue, from the mouth of Garland himself , is that Annihilation is about self-destruction. Seems legit.

As our heroes an excellent all-female ensemble featuring Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason-Leigh, Tessa Thompson, and a never-better Gina Rodriguez venture farther into the Shimmer, their personal vices are made manifest in ways both tangible and ethereal. A self-harming character is mutated from within, a former addict lashes out, and a manipulator is forced into subservience.

The Shimmer refracts and permeates everything it envelops, and likewise, the questions and answers here take on a multitude of edges and sides. Writing it out in summary is an exercise in oversimplification, and thus futility.

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The movie does work hard to help you keep up, though, and to its credit, you can come away with at least a starting point for navigating its dense thematic maze. The team puts their scientific know-how to good use throughout the journey, posing hypotheses to each other and running experiments on the world around them.

Nonetheless, a few things emerge. The most explicit idea Annihilation puts forward is that self-destruction is a natural human tendency.

Find Your Doom, Or Your Hope, In ‘Annihilation’

In other words, humans are destructive because something inside us orients us to be that way, even if the natural world is oriented toward survival instead. Whether your path to that conclusion is spiritual, evolutionary, or both, it checks out with human experience. From that premise, things branch out in a variety of directions, but one permutation resonates a bit louder than the others.

One character has a reason to survive, a reason to resist the parts of her that incline toward death, and that drives her to fight the Shimmer instead of give into it.

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The two battles are waged on the same landscape. There's the nearly all-female cast, for instance, whose makeup — Portman's scientist, plus a psychologist Jennifer Jason Leigh , an anthropologist Tuva Novotny , a physicist Tessa Thompson , and a paramedic Gina Rodriguez — and storylines pass the Bechdel Test with flying colours. There's the back-and-forth narrative structure, edited with little audience hand-holding. There's Portman's fascinating lead performance, one that juggles wide-eyed optimism, heart-rending disbelief, and something more sinister.

Coursing through all of this, though, is Garland's genuine curiosity about the natural world, and what gives any of us the right to call ourselves a part of it.

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It's a similar broad-strokes question that the filmmaker toyed with in his feature debut, 's cynical Ex Machina , and though it's clear he doesn't have an answer who would? We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons or for abuse. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

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Open this photo in gallery:. Natalie Portman in Annihilation. Peter Mountain. Barry Hertz.

Find Your Doom, Or Your Hope, In ‘Annihilation’ | RELEVANT Magazine

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