Annihilation suffers from lack of character development

In recent years, science fiction movies for the thinking man have been very successful. After Ex Machina, Arrival, and Blade Runner 2049, science fiction movies have proven once again that they can be entertaining and full of thought-provoking themes and ideas.

The newest film to attempt to fit into this subgenre is Annihilation, the second feature from writer/director Alex Garland. After doing Ex Machina Garland proved himself as a very capable director, but Annihilation is ultimately a disappointing movie with some interesting ideas but poor execution.

Annihilation follows Lena (Natalie Portman), a biology teacher and former soldier who embarks on an expedition into The Shimmer, a mysterious area that has appeared on the planet, and inside The Shimmer the laws of science do not apply.

The story of Annihilation was a mixed bag for me. The film presented some interesting ideas involving gene mutation and dividing cells. The film explores these ideas using plants and animals in intriguing ways. However, the decision to tell the story through flashbacks took all tension and suspense away from the movie. This could have been less of an issue if the film was full of well-realized, memorable characters, but unfortunately, that is not the case.

Most of the characters in Annihilation are poorly-written except for Natalie Portman’s character. Her character has multiple layers and a good motivation as well. Portman gives a solid performance to accompany the writing.

The rest of the characters are standard, cliche, and one dimensional. All of the characters are scientists that are at the top of their fields, but they make stupid, ridiculous, decisions throughout most of the runtime.

Not only does Annihilation have thought-provoking themes, it attempts to be a science fiction horror and usually it doesn’t work. The way Garland presents the story takes all the stakes and tension out of the horror sequences. However, there is some grotesque imagery that is very effective and will make audiences squirm.

Another thing that Annihilation does right is the cinematography and visual effects. The cinematography is very nice to look at. The movie was made only for 40 million dollars, making the visual effects even more impressive. Garland and company are clearly well-practiced and know how to work with a minuscule budget. The effects are especially well done on many of the mutated creatures within The Shimmer.

Annihilation is a bit of a letdown. The movie has some pretty cinematography and visual effects. Natalie Portman’s character is compelling and her performance, while not her best by a long shot, is good. The film presents ideas and themes that are fascinating, and keep you thinking long after the credits.

While not downright awful by any means, the uninteresting characters, poorly presented story and bad dialogue keep the movie back. The movie is worth the watch if you enjoy a thoughtful science fiction movie, but don’t go into this movie expecting a science fiction film full of horror and action, like the trailers portray.