Change is a dangerous thing. Rapid change is more dangerous because you cannot easily account for what is taking place.
“Annihilation” is a movie about change. It is about rapid change taking place on a coastline somewhere in the southern United States.
The area where the change is taking place is called “Area X.” It is also known as “The Shimmer” because of the multicolored haze that seems to be covering the area.
Natalie Portman plays Lena, a biologist. She is connected to the area because her husband, Kane (Oscar Isaac), went on a mission into The Shimmer and was presumed to be dead. But he returns to her, a year later, acting quite differently than before.
After having a drink of water, he begins to hemorrhage. Lena calls the paramedics, but before they can get him to the hospital, a group of government agents swoops in and takes both Kane and Lena away.
Lena awakens in a room where she is visited by Dr. Ventress, a psychologist. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is a part of the government group studying Area X.
She wants to know what Kane told Lena, and what Lena knew of Kane’s mission. Lena says she knows nothing.
In time, Lena learns a new group is going into Area X. She volunteers and goes in with Anya (Gina Rodriguez), Cass (Tuva Novotny) and Josie (Tessa Thompson).
As they move into The Shimmer, they begin to make discoveries. Things like deer with organic matter growing for antlers. An alligator attacks them; upon its death, they discover the creature has teeth like a shark. They realize that the plant and wildlife are all evolving into things that they were not before.
The same is true of the members of the group. They all are changing rapidly. This discovery results in a psychotic affect that makes them want to kill themselves. Lena battles the elements and her mates to try and discover the secret of The Shimmer.
“Annihilation” is a sci-fi horror movie. There are many disturbing and bloody images. It is not for the faint of heart. That being said, I found some things here that I think bear mention.
The theme of change is tied to both the space that is Area X and those that go in it. It becomes, on one level, a metaphor for the relationship between Lena and Kane.
As we see in scenes before Kane leaves, change is taking place in their relationship. And the change is not good.
They are growing apart. And they seem to be unable to do much about it. There are no attempts to deal with it. They just accept the status quo.
The change that is The Shimmer represents the current world. Change goes on at a quantum rate. It happens so widely and so quickly that we tend to want to put our heads in the sand and just hope it will go away. But it doesn’t.
Those of us who do church work know that full well. In more than 30 years of being a pastor, there has been so much change in the culture and society that it is hard to begin to comprehend it, much less adjust to it. It just happened.
Change in The Shimmer is constant, and it acts in ways that the characters do not like. Change for the church is the same.
What I saw in this movie was a slice of life for all people, both Christian and non-Christian.
We are living in a time of change and it’s not just changing the things around us, it’s also changing us. What we do with that change will be the determining factor of whether we survive or not.
The Shimmer may not be out there, but change is. And we are going to have to learn to do more than just lament about it.
Michael Parnell is pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is married and has two boys. His love is for movies, and he can be found in a theater most Fridays.
MPAA Rating: R for violence, bloody images, language and some sexuality.
Director and writer: Alex Garland, based on the book by Jeff VanderMeer.
Cast: Natalie Portman (Lena), Oscar Isaac (Kane), Jennifer Jason Leigh (Dr. Ventress), Gina Rodriguez (Anya), Tuva Novotny (Cass), Tessa Thompson (Josie).
The movie’s website is here.