‘Annihilation’ Blu-ray Review
Alex Garland is a true renaissance man. Garland hit it big in the early 90s with his novel The Beach gaining attention and status almost immediately. The book was adapted into a film that did relatively well leading him to do more work, including jumping to the big screen himself. Recently, Garland debuted his abilities as a director with the science-fiction darling, Ex Machina. Ex Machina earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay showing that he still had the ability to write. To follow it up, he went straight back to science-fiction with Annihilation; 2018’s early critically acclaimed award season outsider.
Unlike Ex Machina, Annihilation is not original material from Garland as it’s based on the 2014 novel by Jeff VanderMeer. If you were familiar with VanderMeer’s book, you had some idea where this new movie would take you. But I, like most, had no clue where this adventure was going.
Annihilation stars Natalie Portman as Lena, an ex-military college professor of Biology who’s husband disappeared about a year earlier. Keeping herself in isolation, Lena’s husband Kane (Oscar Isaac) mysteriously returns to her only to immediately need medical attention. After the two are taken into custody by the government, Lena quickly learns of the Shimmer, an odd and growing event occurring in a mostly rural area. With no explanation to what happens in the Shimmer, Lena chooses to join Dr. Ventress’ (Jennifer Jason Leigh) expedition in to try and figure out what is happening to her husband.
The most obvious thing about Annihilation is that it is a visually stunning film full of deep color and life. This is true no matter the viewing, as from DVD to 4K to Theatrical, the visuals Garland uses throughout the film take the experience to the next level. Creatures are dark and detailed while mutated wildlife is intense in its beauty and even a glass of water stands out as the cinematography matches what the visual effects team did for Annihilation.
But visuals only carry a film so far, and the line in the sand for movie goers is clearly drawn with the plot of this open and confusing science-fiction film. Right now, it’s clear people either love or hate this film, but even as it just now hits home video I see a cult following building and arguments over the meaning of the film and what even happens on it grow deeper and theories more detailed online as fans view it again and again to try and decide exactly what the hell is going on.
Garland wins and loses with this. Ex Machina was a fantastic science-fiction movie but there wasn’t much left for interpretation. We get our characters and their actions are incredibly clear. In Annihilation we are left wondering what happened in regards to everything. And that can either be frustrating for fans, or fantastic.
The beauty of the film, and probably the reason for its attention from critics, is that so much can be interpreted as you see fit. Is this an exposé on humanity? Is it a typical science-fiction adventure that leaves our future wide open? Was any of it even real, or is this just all a fantasy? Theory after theory is added to the web and so many of them have plenty of ground to stand on as Garland did a fantastic job giving us a complete film without complete guidance.
Annihilation isn’t just the work of Garland though. As mentioned, the work behind the camera and after filming help take this movie to the next level. But Portman is joined by a strong cast of individuals all portraying a very different character learning to deal with what the Shimmer is throwing at them in very different ways.
I know, you’ve made it this far and you’re thinking, what details is this review going to share about the movie? Well, the answer is not many. This is something you need to see for yourself, and more than once.
Paramount brings Annihilation to Blu-ray on a 1080p Mpeg-4 encode that is not as rewarding as one might hope. The movie, as noted in the Film Itself part, is visually stunning, and that translates well to all mediums. But when you see a movie like this in theaters you are waiting for it to come out in high-definition as new reference material for your setup, and Annihilation is simply not that. The overall presentation is somewhat flat, grainy, and even at times feeling out of focus. The colors we saw in theaters are here, but not as deep and detailed as one would hope for in a film of this nature. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll enjoy the way it looks on your television at home, but with expectations so high for this film, I feel a bit disappointed in the video presentation.
The audio on the other hand is a pure treat. Whether you enjoy Annihilation with the Dolby Atmos track or the Dolby TrueHD 7.1 option, you get a lossless track that is simply out of this world. Sound plays a huge role in this film, from the over used folk music track, to the sound effects of the Shimmer, to the intense and often heavy dialogue. All the speakers do their part, and the experience is both booming and full of detail. No conversation is washed out by the extra sounds of the film, and the sounds all engulf the audience making one feel like they are part of the film.
Annihilation arrives on Blu-ray in a combo pack that includes a Digital Copy and a DVD release of the film. This has become standard for most bigger studio releases, and as somebody who has upgraded to 4K, I find very little use for the DVD but it might be great for loaning out to those friends that missed it in theaters.
The film also features a great set of featurettes. Part 1 – Southern Research looks at the challenges of both cast and crew converting the materials to a big movie such as this, Part 2 – Area X looks at the work that went into the film, and Part 3 – To the Lighthouse digs into some aspects of creating the film as well as what the movie is all about.
I know some people are going to walk away from Annihilation annoyed and irritated that the movie wasn’t that good. Even knowing that, I urge you to check out what might be 2018’s best science-fiction film. The movie itself is visually stunning and has a strong enough plot that’s left open for interpretation. The Blu-ray is a strong release, although the video presentation is shy of reference you get amazing audio tracks and some great special features. Annihilation is a movie I highly recommend picking up.