When James Cameron’s Avatar first came out I was in high school. I didn’t think much of it initially. Drawing the likes of Atlantis, Pocahontas, and The Last Samurai in terms of story, I wasn’t blown away as my peers were. This was due to gung-ho-testosterone-fueled characters making sarcastic jabs at each other to fill a conversation much alike James Cameron’s classic Aliens along with a simplistic, overdone story of an outsider who finds solace and understanding in a generally viewed inferior side. Yes, the views and spectacle was epic but I was not won over. Needless to say, I enjoyed it for what it was as Avatar chopped it up on screen and hit all the right points. It strung at the feels, intense fight sequences, and technically speaking, was a marvel to look at.
A shade over a decade later, Avatar: Way of Water is released. Time to rewatch the OG before I hit the theater. Got to say, many of the visuals hold up to this day. Very, very few, close up shots with CGI looks a bit wonkey. The impact of the latter half of the movie still hits hard. The story takes time in setting up with its two and half hour run time, investing you in the Pandora world. Everything that is touched, matters. Every action, matters. A decade later it got me thinking, this is something that would happen if we left Earth and found a rare resource elsewhere in our star-studded sky.
It’s common to hear history repeats itself. To me, that’s what Avatar is about. At least what I see. If we came across a colony of people, an alien population, what would our initial greeting be like? Would we hold out our hand for trade? Start planning extermination so we can whip out a new roadmap? Think less of a tribal community instead of learning what they can offer? Or destroy something sacred. Think of the land and sky, how we’re here and not as disconnected from our own natural, organic network. With this in mind, Avatar has a close relation to Broken Arrow. A story about a man who tries to bring peace between the Apaches and the American Government.
We are capable of recycling our history. We are also capable of leaving this planet. I don’t think we are meant to stay, we are here to learn how to take care of ourselves and the nature around us. We have been experiencing the consequences of not doing so. That’s the beautiful thing of cinema, it reflects our life and our future.
I view Avatar differently now. A spectacle that opens the doors to the future. A story that’s easy to grasp but a pill that’s harder to swallow.
Annihilation relates closely to the book of the same title. 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. The writing seemed unsure of what it wanted to say at times. Although there seemed to be hints of transcendence, but I digress. Garland did a fantastic job in streamlining the material with a little more sense of focus. 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 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 another ideal project to lead is a Bioshock adaption from the videogame (or book). 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.