The early buzz on Alex Garland’s “Annihilation” was strong, but the official first reviews are even stronger. Paramount has lifted the review embargo on Garland’s latest science-fiction drama, and film critics are comparing the film to the likes of Stanley Kubrick, David Cronenberg, Ridley Scott, and Darren Aronofsky, among other auteurs who have mastered the art of mind-bending genre films.
IndieWire’s own Eric Kohn called “Annihilation” a “stunning science-fiction thriller” in his A- review. “Garland’s cinematic interpretation plays more like ‘Alien’ by way of Darren Aronofsky’s ‘mother!'” he says of the film. “It’s a horror show in which the survivors’ prospects are dim, but they’re consumed by an environment of ethereal beauty, and Garland makes it clear that those two variables can coexist.”
“Annihilation” stars Natalie Portman as a biologist who joins a mission into an environmental disaster zone in order to try and figure out what happened to her ailing husband. Portman is joined by Gina Rodriguez, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson, and Oscar Isaac in the film, which is loosely adapted from the novel by Jeff VanderMeer.
The movie opens nationwide this Friday, February 23. Check out the first reviews below.
“Annihilation” falls neatly into a familiar tradition of survival stories stretching from Joseph Campbell to Ridley Scott, but it carries those tropes with a degree of confidence that leads to more far-reaching results in its climax, a satisfying and sometimes brilliant dose of Kubrickian storytelling that digs deep and goes visceral at the same time.
Alex Garland follows up “Ex Machina” with a visually stunning, imagination-tickling sci-fi thriller…The suspense never lets up. Imagine Andrei Tarkovsky’s “Stalker” with a strong no-nonsense heroine and pulse-racing creature attacks, and suddenly, such an excursion starts to sound enticing for those who otherwise can’t abide slow cinema.
Garland’s latest — a measured, but mesmerizing dramatic sci-fi thriller about self-imposed devastation — cements his status a modern auteur and a virtuoso of forming vivid, visceral and out-of-body experiences. Sweating with an ethereal pulse and a looming corporeal dread, if Stanley Kubrick and David Cronenberg teamed up to make a cerebral “weird nature” horror movie, it might look a little bit like “Annihilation.”
It’s hugely refreshing, and remarkably uncommon, to watch a genre film that revolves around intelligent characters reacting intelligently to fantastical events…There are some gruesomely well-orchestrated scenes of body horror (one particular dissection is nightmarishly staged) and Garland’s knack for gonzo imagery ensures that so many scenes in the film will make a lasting impression.
To reveal Area X’s surprises would spoil the fun, but suffice to say that “Annihilation” has some overlap with “Solaris” and “Stalker,” Andrei Tarkovsky’s ruminative and mind-bending portraits of surreal other worlds. Still, Garland adds plenty of expertly executed jolts to keep viewers drilled to their seats.