In a move that may be a sign of things to come, 2018 Paramount sci-fi feature Annihilation is having a premiere outside of the US on Netflix.
The film by director Alex Garland (Ex-Machina, 28 Days Later, Sunshine) was only released in the US on February 23, grossing $20.6m. A move to stream through all other territories may be Hollywood’s new frontier.
Whilst this is so visual it probably deserves to be seen on the big screen, the good news is the journey makes it all worthwhile.
Natalie Portman stars as biologist Lena, whose soldier husband returns home from service after 12 months in a daze, before dramatically collapsing. The inciting incident propels her to seek answers from a secretive military.
But stern psychologist Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh) reveals his mission involved ‘Area X’, a coastal land mass which was hit by a meteor. Over recent months a strange force known as “the Shimmer” is devouring all in its path and growing. On one side of its transparent perimeter it looks like a giant lava lamp / melting soap bubble. On the other side radio signals vanish, along with personnel who have investigated.
But like the new Ghostbusters, 5 women -including Lena and Dr. Ventress- arm themselves to face whatever evils or horrors lurk within. From this point Annihilation plays with its genre: part-horror / action / sci-fi / hero’s journey. There are CGI bumps in the night that will leave you grateful to be this side of the soap bubble.
Also in this dysfunctional troupe are tough paramedic Anya (Gina Rodriguez), physicist Josie (Tessa Thompson) and geologist Cass (Tuva Novotny) who come face to face with peril in all its twisted guises. But Lena’s biology background will uncover the Shimmer’s secrets.
Portman underplays the emotions to considerable effect, allowing supporting players to turn on the necessary hysteria and emotive responses. She is cool in the face of adversity, but tough when the script gets going. By contrast, a dour Jennifer Jason Leigh is dry to the point of Nurse Ratched….
Visually Annihilation turns it on, both in concept and design. There are some twisted ideas, colour and movement to take you on a ride. After disappointing Netflix sci-fi sojourns with Mute and The Cloverfield Paradox (redeemed somewhat by Altered Carbon), Annihilation delivers a good night in.
Annihilation airs Monday March 12 on Netflix.