The Morning After: Mar. 19, 2018

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:


Four years ago, writer Alex Garland made his directorial debut with Ex Machina, a critical smash that surprised with two Oscar nominations for Best Original Screenplay and Best Visual Effects and further surprised by winning the Visual Effects prize. Now, he’s picked up a higher budget and has brought Jeff VanderMeer’s novel to the big screen with Natalie Portman in the lead as a ex-military biologist whose military husband returns after a mysterious one-year absence.

The film’s premise follows Portman as she and a team of women push into an expanse called The Shimmer where all prior expeditions have been lost and whose mysterious origin defies explanation. As the five women explore a diverse biome of rapidly mutating flora and fauna, they must battle inner demons and unseen forces to reach the epicenter and stop whatever threatens the entirety of earth.

Portman is joined by a bountiful group of prominent actors including Oscar nominee Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny, David Gyasi, and Oscar Isaac. Each delivers a solid performance, but Garland’s aesthetic often requires emotionless delivery that doesn’t always allow the audience to connect with the characters. Portman has one early scene where she’s grieving her lost husband, but beyond that, her vacant-eyed approach is sometimes off-putting.

Garland has such a daring and inventive visual style. Annihilation is overflowing with sensory splendor. The film’s effects are staggering and the production design is vivid and richly detailed. The music adds a brilliant depth to the otherworldly environment through which our protagonist travels. There are also plenty of heady philosophical topics for the audience who might grow bored with the vast expanses of silence, Garland focusing on showing rather than telling. That is both a barrier to universal understanding and an aid for those who enjoy quietly contemplative works.

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