NEW YORK - Call this a thinking person's science fiction film. One critic describes "Annihilation" as "metaphysical," while to another, it is bold. I call it too boring to recommend.
Still, "Annihilation" isn't a total loss. A couple of hours of monotony are punctuated with a few moments of sheer terror.
Natalie Portman stars as Lena, an Army veteran married to an active duty soldier who volunteers for a dangerous mission, vanishes for a year then returns at a loss to explain what happened to him.
"I don't know where it was or what it was," he tells her.
Soon, he's incapacitated, and his wife begins her search for answers at a secret base called Area X. She figures if she knows what happened, she can save his life and help him get better.
The key to understanding what happened arrived from space, and the phenomenon is now gaining ground. It is something termed "The Shimmer."
A psychologist played by Jennifer Jason Leigh joins Eva and the rest of an all-female squad, who go in to investigate and find great beauty...but also great danger. There's a huge bear-like creature, an alligator with the teeth of a shark, etc.
You can't cross-breed different species, so as a biologist, Portman's character has never seen anything like it.
"It's like they're stuck in a continuous mutation," she tells her colleagues.
More showing and less telling would have helped "Annihilation," especially since the visual effects are subtle and stunning. It is all the more reason not to have so much walking and talking.
I enjoyed watching all of these alpha females be so strong in the face of evil, but ultimately, "Annihilation" isn't as important as it hopes to be. It's destined to be more admired by critics than loved by the public.
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