‘Annihilation,’ what can I say… this movie is right up my alley and I’ve been highly anticipating this 4K release since it was announced. This isn’t a movie I can just outright speak on because I don’t want to ruin anything about it. Reading through the highlights may contain spoilers, but I’ll try my hardest to avoid them.
I think that the critics consensus from Rotten Tomatoes sums it up for me and it’s the perfect quote to lead into the film; “Annihilation backs up its sci-fi visual wonders and visceral genre thrills with an impressively ambitious and surprisingly strange exploration of challenging themes that should leave audiences pondering long after the end credits roll.”
Plot: Based on Jeff VanderMeer’s best-selling ‘Southern Reach’ Trilogy, Annihilation is about Lena (Natalie Portman), a biologist and former soldier joining a mission to uncover what happened to her husband inside Area X — a sinister and mysterious phenomenon that is expanding across the American coastline. Once inside, the expedition discovers a world of mutated landscape and creatures, as dangerous as it is beautiful, that threatens both their lives and their sanity.
Director: Alex Garland
Aspect Ratio: 2.39.1
Runtime: 115 minutes
Unboxing (see below)
Review: Since the film was digitally shot, there is a ton of fine detail all over the place. It is a native 4K digital film graded for high dynamic range in Dolby Vision and HDR10, so literally some of these moments screamed clarity. With that, all the darker scenes looked natural, the shadows hit nicely and colorful scenes shined. For the majority of this movie they are in The Shimmer which boasts a dream-like effect. Glossy tones are constant, the texturing is subtle and the effects are alien-like.
There would be an insane amount of detail, color and depth in certain shots and then there wouldn’t be as much in the next. As the film went on it made more sense, there is a lot happening around them and at certain points you need to realize they are in an unknown place in this dream-like-confusing-mind-bending-alternating reality.
There is nothing inside this zone that is natural, normal or constant — so the detail, color, tone and overall ambiance is ever changing. Certain moments POP! and others don’t, not to a fault in the way it was shot, but with direct intent of the flow of the movie.
I jotted down some of highlights during last night’s watch — not to say that this is all of them, just some of the things that caught my eye.
Chapter 5 & 6
There’s a conversation that takes place near a large window in an office where you get a lot of color from The Shimmer and of course, high detail all across Natalie Portman’s face.
When the team finally approaches The Shimmer to enter the unkown, you get fine detail from all of the nature surrounding them. The backdrop of the barrier looks like pastels floating on a wall. Minutes later, you get a shot of Lena leaving her conveniently yellow tent. The greens are SO GREEN! It’s a very cool shot with a lot of color.
When Lena ventures off alone and she walks through the trees with colorful moss growing on them, she finds the deer wondering through the woods. Lots of good color, highlights and shadows are apparent.
While Lena arrives on the beach, you get amazing contrast from the wet sand to the pastel sky in the background above the ocean. The scene lasts long enough to enjoy it as she walks towards the ultimate goal, The Lighthouse.
Chapter 15 & 16
This is the part of the review where there are too many spoilers involved, so you’ll have to watch it to understand. During the last scenes you get a bunch of reference material from every aspect UHD has to offer.
The credits are pretty awesome too, it looks stunning with all the effects taking place on the screen. Don’t skip it.
Conclusion: I love it when a sci-fi movie isn’t perfect, because there is so much conversation that comes from it. What is happening? How did you interpret this scene? What happened with that ending? ‘Annihilation’ is a special mix of science fiction & horror that came together in a way I appreciated, a lot. Actually, I wish it was a good 30 minutes longer because you could really dive into the horror and the confusion taking place. I wanted even more detail on the madness going on in The Shimmer, I feel the sky was the limit and I wanted the limit.
Films like this one (and others in the genre) don’t have mass appeal or become box office smash hits, but they do deserve our attention. A movie like this (which is part of a book trilogy) will never see a sequel because of the box office numbers.
I think a lot of these 4K reviews see the point of proving the jump from Blu-Ray and which scenes are reference quality, etc. etc. The real question in this case is, does this movie interest you at all? If you’re a sci-fi fan, it’s definitely worth adding to your collection. I would even argue that if you like movies that are mind bending, it’s a must have. If nothing about this movie interests you, don’t let it go. I would suggest, at the very least, you rent it and watch it once. From there you can decide if you want to take the step to own it.
‘Annihilation’ official releases via Paramount this Tuesday, May 29th! Please note that the 4K release is currently a Best Buy exclusive, so head to Best Buy and grab it!