For some reason, every-time Netflix releases a ‘blockbuster’ movie it feels rather lacklustre. There’s nothing quite like watching a brand new film on a giant screen while you stuff yourself with something yellow or brown. Unfortunately, however, we must get used to watching the latest release in bed, on a thirteen-inch screen with microwave popcorn.
Rather than risking a cinematic release, more and more studio’s will take the safety net that streaming services cast. Imagine you’re posed with the risk of releasing an experimental, sci-fi film like Annihilation; you can either toss the bait out to millions of plankton or hand it to one big whale. The Netflix whale. Here’s the best part of the whole predicament though. Paramount sold the film to Netflix because test audiences determined it to be “too intellectual” for general audiences. Too intellectual. When I read this, I made an audible sigh. How is it that we live in a cultural economy where something can be too smart to turn a profit? That’s going to keep me up at night, but the thing is, they’re right. It’s why so many good films like Blade Runner 2049 are struggling at the box office. Nobody likes a smarty pants. Keep your artistic expression to yourself and give us more bright and loud things.
In all honesty, I get it. Annihilation was even a little ‘too intellectual’ for a film snob like me. Half the time you’re left with too much information and too few clues. Even as I write this, there are still parts of the film I’m trying to piece together, but that does not make it a bad film by any means. In fact, I think it is quite a good film. It echoes the likes of 2001: A Space Oddesy and Arrivalwhile still cutting its own path. The film centres around a group of 5 female scientists who venture into a mysterious quarantined area in the hopes of finding the source of a spreading ‘infection’. It’s made very clear that there is an extraterrestrial element here so I won’t be spoiling the film if I tell you so. It’s like the all-female Ghostbusters we were waiting for.
Most movies based on books are very refreshing because their plotlines are unique and they’ve often had an incredible amount of thought put into them. This movie truly does feel like it’s more than your average big-budget blockbuster. It takes some serious risks and much like Ex Machina, it poses a number of haunting questions that make for a richer but perhaps less entertaining film. Also, the special effects are to die for. While they weren’t always perfectly rendered, they were gorgeous, and unlike any, I have seen before. I should say, however, the film does seem to lack a purpose. Perhaps I’ve missed it, but it seems as if the story shows a lot yet says very little. I love movies that reflect the unpredictability of life, but I prefer it if they give a kernel of wisdom in doing so (think Manchester by the Sea or Boyhood).
All in all, Annihilation is a thrilling 115 minutes with a new take on the typical conventions of sci-fi films. If you give it a lot of energy, you will earn yourself a new perspective on humanity, and if you give it very little energy, you will get an exciting ride with a few confusing moments. One of the biggest takeaways for me, however, is how scared studios are to release films like this in Disney’s shadow and how thankful we can be that Netflix is shining its light on them.
This review was written by Hendon.
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