Annihilation (2018)

Annihilation (2018) – IMDB

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I feel Alex Garland, Director and Writer, reached a peak with this one. Something special emerged from the mind behind Ex Machina and Sunshine. He is very underrated in how he handles the content of film. Annihilation is the perfect example. Taken from the works of Jeff VanderMeer, Garland creates a mystical story with dreamlike quality. Collecting images of obscure focus, air full of rainbow hues against a backdrop of lush greens. The book itself is read like a dream, lost, but a dream that demands the reader to stretch their active membranes into a working cluster of incoherent images. That’s where Garland shines in creating a world that is alien but familiar and yet frightening. Adapting only from the first book of a trilogy, Annihilation is a challenge to adapt for viewers and transforming the material into the director’s own, making it the most logical sense and pays off. With an original vision and paying respects to the original material, this is some unique filmmaking.

Long after the credits roll, Annihilation sits with you. Simmers inside your gut. It’s discomforting and beautiful. Mesmerizing and terrifying. In all of my movie watching there is nothing like the images depicted onscreen. It is unique and challenging to witness. Nothing like it has been done before. Not everything is explained which leaves the viewer speechless and bewildered. When I first saw it in theater I had zero idea what to make of what I saw. There was horror and surreal imagery of beyond our comprehension. And that is what makes the film so dreadfully beautiful.

Annihilation relates closely to the book of the same title. As I have read it, both deserve recognition. However, the big screen is what I prefer. For the book was even more hard to grasp. Full of imagery and little dialogue, constantly demanding my attention to form this otherworldly landscape. Garland did a fantastic job, in my opinion, with this current adaptation. As one remained an unanswered nightmare, Garland’s seemed to be a subtle message of cells.

On a grander scale, a comet collides from the outer walls of our mother Earth into a Lighthouse. Thus springing forth a mysterious Shimmer. A glowing dome of rainbow luminescence becomes a fixation of scientists as it grows beyond it’s initial impact. Within this dome, life seems to copy, refract, and combine itself. This creates some beautiful creatures and some horrendous monstrosities. In a way, it’s a cancer. Manipulating it’s environment to mimic life. The comet sets off an ambiguous force that wants to create and make it’s own life. This could be seen as alien. A foreign lifeform taking control of another planet that deems to be the next suiter. Or perhaps mother Earth is a giant cell. The comet is a plummeting cancer or virus. We are merely smaller working cells for Earth. After collision, one cell begins to mimic another, thus bringing a new form of life. In a way, it’s terrifying, and another, beautiful because the foreign object, the Shimmer, replicates Earth life forms as one species. This tells me we are one with Earth, the same, and this is how the Alien life form perceives us as it tries to make something new.

However, this is open to interpretation. I do not believe the author of the original material meant for something deep. When you have Alex Garland behind the project, I would expect something that would require me to think. At least challenge my views.

With one selfish opinion to add, I could not help but distinguish Garland’s style for science fiction and horror to fit perfectly with a new installment in the Alien franchise. His approach to artificial life like his work on Ex Machina would leave Ridley Scott out of the director’s chair. Garland’s brand of horror is dark enough for the corners of space thanks to Annihilation and Sunshine. He contains an expansive exploration many filmmakers do not have the courage, not to mention the imagery to capture on screen. I’d like to mention he’d be a prefect specimen to lead a Bioshock adaption from the videogame. Contains similar genres to tackle like sci fi horror and an incredible story to embark on beneath the ocean.

Annihilation can turn away viewers for it’s ambiguous story and not explaining anything. I like the film for this reason. However, where there are changes to the adaptation some I thought worked while others I thought were down right stupid. Notably a scene which involves our protagonists to take patrol at night in a run down base but ends up disastrous and I simply can’t bear.

When I saw Annihilation in theaters I was mesmerized and horrified. It felt bigger than all of us but on such a small scale. The content is hard to digest and stays with you. I will always remember sitting there feeling low key terrified when an unwelcomed guest ventures into a house in ruin with the scientists tied to their chairs. A feeling of utter hopelessness and fear settles in. The lighthouse is an entire work of art of disturbance and fascination. Annihilation is a unique viewing experience that works as a standalone feature without the other stories in the trilogy being adapted.

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Alien: Covenant (2017)

Alien: Covenant – IMDB

 

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As a fan of this beloved series, I read articles, watched interviews, and looked out for the anticipated teaser trailer released last Christmas. My hopes couldn’t have been higher. A return to the dark and dangerous universe of Alien. Prometheus opened a whole new world for us to explore and upon initial viewing I loved it, then hated it, then as time passed it grew on me and I have accepted it for being a stand alone film and an unique entry in to the franchise. With that being said, there was a lot to be expected from Ridley Scott taking yet another lead in the xenomorph franchise. And then finally, FINALLY. A full red band trailer was released. I watched. As the trailer for Alien: Covenant burst from its organic egg shell, revealing it’s gooey innards. I couldn’t help but be exposed to the spoilers on screen as one colonist after another were dying showcasing their deaths to entice and scare viewers demanding it’s attention. AND THEN, my questioning began, “Is this really going to be good, it looks like Alien? Should I lower my bar of expectations? Is this the sequel we deserve?”

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I see nothing but death.

I believe Ridley Scott listened to those shouting and screaming Alien fans and their hatred for Prometheus without consideration of those who spoke softly for their love of a film that took a risk in a new direction. Scott himself wanted to create something new that centered around creation and a story that provoked the thought of origins for life. And not just any life, but birth of the hissing xenomorph. I understood Prometheus was set in the same universe but placed far before the original. And it was this movie that many were apparently down right upset about. Movies age like wine, many show their true colors and morph into something flavorful later on down the road. The tick with this film is Scott took a chunk of Alien and a spice of Prometheus. When instead it should have been vice versa. It felt like he wanted to please the audience and new comers with an over cooked monster and playing it safe. When, in fact, I would have chosen the risky route. Continue Prometheus mission.

This is the biggest fault of the film. Alien: Covenant wanted to spring into an Alien movie so badly it left many ingredients that made it’s predecessor stand alone. There’s reviews that could go on about what Prometheus did wrong and what not. Yea, yea, we know. A great sequel would add to the first’s mystery, answer questions and then some. Frankly, the sequel does not. You want to know if Shaw gets any of her questions answered? Who cares. Want to know any more about the Engineers? Nah, irrelevant, they’re just a plot device. Alien: Covenant moves forward in a storm abandoning almost everything behind. Leaving a mess of a film.

There are good points in the movie and I will say it definitely is not a waste of time. By far my favorite is watching the androids, Walter and David, both played by the magnificent Michael Fassbender, interact with one another. Their conversations and differences make some compelling dialogue. They are by far the best part of the film. David is becoming more of a solid character in the franchise as Ripley. It’s exciting to think about. **Spoiler** Seeing as David’s relationship with Weyland is submissive in the the shadow of his creator, David holds the ability to create, and to create he does. The perfect being. And this is justified (if not hard to swallow) in the beginning  when Weyland talks to David on his initial creation. This bit I loved. Discussion of art, creation, and Gods. It is what is expected of a Prometheus sequel.

Androids were not the only ones who were good, those looking for a more serious role for Danny Mcbride actually has a good standing here. It was a pleasure to see him on screen and provide a drop of comical relief and play a driven husband to the end. A part I was looking forward to. And Katherine Waterston who played the down beat Daniels. She did good but nothing to stand out or even complain. She is in grief of losing her husband so her character hardly has an uplifting moment. With that to say the movie as a whole is quite atmospheric and despairing.

In relation to the other characters I really wish they were more fleshed out. Especially Oram and Karine. This couple could of had some deep conversations. Oram (Billy Crudup) could have used a lot more text and background on why and how he is religious. I think personally he is the most interesting character besides David. With Shaw out of the picture, Oram could have real conversations with David. If not him, Daniels or Tennessee about the future humankind’s path is set on or the Engineers’ purpose. Potential once again lost. Oram is just another guy with faith providing no meaning or value to his own asset to the story of origins. Like the trailer,  Alien: Covenant provided  meaningless scares and predictable deaths. There’s no exaggeration. The deaths are predictable, good acting, but predictable, signing on a new cast dying for a paycheck.

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Some effects I enjoyed but couldn’t help but feel it was a slight downgrade from Prometheus. Times I felt practical effects could have been used but weren’t. i.e. animatronics. The aliens themselves are creepy. Mainly the new one, the neomorph. The original isn’t welcomed like an old friend coming home. Not that it should as it’s history in terrorizing the screen for the past 30 years. We all know what you’re capable of alien, step aside. The neomorph is here and shows it’s origins but where is it on the scale of the Engineers’ existence? Where does it stand? We still know little about the goo from the previous movie. Why couldn’t we just get proper sequel instead of an Alien prequel? You are draining this series dry, Ridley Scott.

The music itself is terrific. With moments calling back to Alien and Prometheus scores gives a hybrid vibe of the universe that’s currently existing and was happy to hear. The additional music was also good, emanating a dark ominous howl. Creating a subtle hint of intense terror that’s not exploding in your face.

It’s interesting to see where the franchise is going.  Not to be sexist but I was hoping not another heroine in this picture. But it’s not all we got. And I hope she isn’t the only one. We’ve had a Ripley. Please, present something new. And try not to kill everyone in the opening credits, so learn from the mistakes. If by chance Scott listens and isn’t a crazed old man looking for a come back and says “F***  it this is how the story is gonna be” we can fix this average film into what the franchise needs: back to answering and asking questions Prometheus introduced. We’ve had our Alien films, bring us something else. Tease us with Alien, give us Engineers and a space to explore with new findings. Our minds are bigger than this. What is life without expanding our boundaries? It’ll be hard to trek back around this film and find our footing once again. Maybe in time this will grow but who knows. We still have stupid characters and a lazy, messy plot that wants to entertain with the occasional questionable dialogue.

I saw a lot of promise when John Logan was attached (creator/writer of Penny Dreadful, writer of Gladiator). We’ll see where this takes us. Scott proclaims at this moment that the series is pinned for an additional three movies that lead up to the original Alien. Anything could happen. Am I worried? At this point, yea, I am. A Prometheus like sequel will be welcomed. Scott needs to figure out his vision for the future of the franchise. Do I still look forward to the next entry? Hell yea, I do. However, we need innovative ideas. It’s time for the reigns to be passed on Ridley Scott. If you need attention, get a dog.

In the end, I liked the movie. Since Aliens no Alien movie has been perfect. Close calls but no perfect specimen. If Scott plans to release these next few additions then he needs to find that vision and stick to it. Pleasing the audience with a cooked monster will do nothing. Possibly the goriest entry along with Alien Resurrection, we need more than shock and fright. Story much? Missing the chemistry David and Shaw had we can only look forward now after a grim experimentation. One can hope for the director’s cut. As I and fans alike look for the missing parts not already integrated into a film we anticipated for.

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