Annihilation fully kicked my ass. I went in not even knowing what it was about, only knowing some of my friends really loved it. Someone said it was film of the decade. Are you kidding me? Five minutes into the film I was ready to be fully underwhelmed. I wasn’t prepared.

From the very beginning the film explores ideas of decay and destruction, starting with Lena’s lecture on cancer cells, and diving deep into human nature, trying to find the root of what it is that makes us hurt each other and ourselves. These ideas come to include ecology as the team ventures deeper into Area X, finding mutations and hybrids alike, each beautiful and horrific and confusing. Garland presents themes of mindless self-destruction borne from the Shimmer with such mesmerizing imagery, I was left both terrified and eager to see what else Area X had in store.

The world created in Annihilation is a powerful existential metaphor. Why is the Shimmer refracting DNA, halving the parts of the living again and again, scrambling them until they’re something completely different? We don’t know. Why do we ruin our most important relationships and destroy our bodies, diminishing our love and our energy until we wake up and don’t know who we are or how we got here? We don’t know. By the end of the film things look real bleak. Lena and Kane v.2 go in for a hug, we see Lena absorb his DNA or SOMETHING, and we know there’s no escaping the annihilation. But is it all death and pain and fear? Surely not, as we see with Josie, flowers blooming from her scars as she accepts her new life in the Shimmer. Even Lena concedes that the Shimmer probably didn’t want destruction, but rather change.

The more I think about it, the whole thing seems more and more hopeful, especially when you consider how it relates to us and our stupid, fucked up lives. Because with every episode, every straw that almost breaks our back, we feel like we’re getting completely disintegrated, but when it passes we come out as someone who isn’t destroyed, just different. While some of its creations were from the absolute depths of hell, the Shimmer was never a malicious force. Some of its byproducts were fantastic and beautiful, and in the case of the corpse at Fort Maya, some were a combination of all these things. I love this reminder, that wonder and horror and beauty and, I don’t know, evil bear badgers with no flesh on their faces can and do coexist, and there doesn’t have to be a reason for any of it. But we’re probably better off finding ways to enjoy it, because it’s all bound to change if you stick around long enough. Garland really did something amazing here, and I suspect I’ll be reeling from it for a long while.

~Shelly Rose~

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