Review: Annihilation is the big screen experience of the year

Publish Date
Friday, 16 March 2018, 10:27AM

By Chris Schulz

Annihilation is the big screen experience of the year. You know what's coming next: in New Zealand, a theatre is the last place you can watch it.

Because of some top level shenanigans involving dodgy test screenings, nervous movie bosses and balance sheets, Alex Garland's high-concept sci-fi epic hasn't been made available in theatres here.

Instead, the US$55 million film, one likely to be remembered as 2018's most adventurous sci-fi experience, is streaming on Netflix right now, next to crapfests like Bright, Gods of Egypt and The Do-Over.

It's a crying shame, because Garland's second feature film - after the also impressive Ex Machina - is a dizzying exploration of the human condition, one that will leave your head spinning for days.

I've watched it twice over the past two weeks, and I'm still trying to unravel Annihilation's layers, decipher its deeper meanings, its hidden metaphors.

Mostly, though, Annihilation is a sci-fi extravaganza. It does so many things right, from its all-female cast of adventurers headed by Natalie Portman and a supremely dry Jennifer Jason Leigh, to its picturesque locations (Norfolk, England, apparently), and its well-paced story, which involves a military team heading inside "the shimmer" - an alienesque orb that no one has returned from - to investigate.

It's there that Annihilation really takes off, a jungle creepfest that chooses psychological chills over gory thrills. It's still got some of those though: Annihilation features a scene so bone-chillingly tense with a monster so gruesome, I still haven't fully recovered.

It all builds to a final half hour of WTF, in which Annihilation asks some very big questions inspired by dubstep, Tool videos from the early 2000s, and a brilliant performance by Portman. It will leave you questioning, well, everything.

The biggest question you'll be left with is, 'Why can't we see this on the big screen?'

So turn out the lights, turn up your stereo, get the popcorn maker going and do your best to recreate that theatre experience. It's the least you can do for a film that deserved much, much better.

4/5 Stars
Director: Alex Garland
Starring: Natalie Portman, 
Streaming: On Netflix now
Verdict: Natalie Portman, dubstep make a hell of a comeback

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