Extinction Level Event (The Song Of Salvation)

I never finished Jeff VanderMeer's novel Annihilation. I heard good things about it but I couldn't get through it because of work and the other things I was reading at the time. It had potential but I'm not sure where it was going.

I did finish Alex Garland's film Annihilation. I enjoyed it. I think. I was definitely entertained and was into the movie throughout but I had questions at the end. That was not necessarily a bad thing but if you want definitive answers this is not the movie for you. I think this plot has veered a bit from the book from what I hear but there are definite things that they share in common, including the unanswered questions. This is definitely a movie I will have to watch again to get everything.

SOME SPOILERS for the first hour or so of Annihilation from this point on.

The movie starts at almost the end of things chronologically. Lena, the biologist and former Army protagonist portrayed by Natalie Portman, is being interviewed by men in hazmat suits about her experience in Area X aka The Shimmer and the whereabouts of the rest of her team. We learn that The Shimmer is a location in Florida where a meteor has struck a lighthouse and created a weird energy field around the surrounding area. It has been expanding daily and military groups have been sent in to investigate. Only one person has ever returned, Lena's husband Kane. Kane returns to Lena with no memory about his time in The Shimmer and becomes gravely ill. The government take him and Lena to a base set up near the border of The Shimmer after Kane has an attack and slips into a coma. Lena wants answers so she volunteers to join a group consisting of a psychologist, a paramedic, a geologist and a physicist to explore The Shimmer.

Team Badass Nerd.
The group enters and immediately lose time that they can't remember. Vegetation grows in a weird way inside The Shimmer and the group encounters animals that seem to be amalgamations of multiple species mutated together. We also learn that the group of volunteers all have some sort of problems that made volunteering for a dangerous mission seem like a reasonable option to take.

After the team discover video from the previous mission and the geologist is grabbed by a bear creature, the team begins to make some conjectures about The Shimmer. The physicist thinks the are is being refracted so everything is being bounced back and overlapped inside The Shimmer, even DNA which would explain the weird flora and fauna. Lena takes her blood and verifies that the physicist is correct. Then all hell breaks loose within the group with secrets revealed and paranoia arising. Everyone is laid bare.

I'm not going to expand anymore because I think if you have read this much and are intrigued then you should go see the movie. It is best experienced in a theater setting. The visuals are obvious from the trailers and are even better in the actual film. Add to that that the sound design is well thought out and you have an immersive feel to the film. There are other elements of plot and story that are equally engaging and this makes for an extremely watchable viewing experience. Not to even mention the acting abilities of all the almost entirely female cast. They are all amazing and their characters are easy to relate to, even when making some bad choices. 

If you like movies that make you think and might not have a definitive explainable ending then you should like Annihilation. If you want a movie with a strong cast of female protagonists, this may be the movie for you. If you just want some cool looking science-fiction, then check it out. I, on the other hand, will have to give the book another go. Maybe I'll finish it this time.


We are entering into some weirdness.
There are many people discussing the themes and meaning in this movie, particularly the ending, and a lot of them have come to the conclusion that this movie is about cancer. The plot backs this up at various points during the movie- Lena explains cell division/mutation to her students, the animals and plants are mutated, the bodies of the people change and duplicate, etc. The psychologist that leads the group has cancer, the geologist's daughter has also died from cancer and the rest of the group has failings that are breaking them down individually. I definitely think the ending is open to interpretation and the argument for cancer is definitely something solid that can be discussed.

I think it is a cancer but I also think it's the reverse. I think we are the cancer and the alien is there to evolve and improve on the world. The mutation that the alien begins is not destroying the flora and fauna but improving them by trying to add more features. It's pretty straightforward with the animals and plants but it gets crazy when it gets to the humans. 

The characters talk about suicide and self-destruction. According to Dr. Ventress, the psychologist, suicide is a choice we make and self-destruction is what humans do as a natural dark process of life, through the actual breakdown of our cells and due to our self-destructive behaviors. That last part is important. 
"Now, self-destruction..."
All the group members have destructive behavior and The Shimmer enhances these until a choice is made. The choice is even made before the women enter- each of them are living in a state where they can overcome or succumb to their demons or illnesses. The Shimmer tests each of them and, aside from maybe the geologist, each woman has to make their choice in what to do. I think this is why Lena ultimately escapes and why her husband's doppelganger appears to tempt her into The Shimmer to begin with. The Shimmer interacts with you as soon as you enter. This includes your mind and feelings. There are changes that happened at the cellular level in this place but there are also mental things that occur in The Shimmer. You both become your base self but you also adopt things from around you being refracted into you. You can either become something better with this addition or ultimately succumb to these interactions. 

The Shimmer knew that Lena's guilt over infidelity and also the quest for answers would make Lena volunteer. If she was able to overcome and get a second chance with her husband (which she will with his new less upset about the state of his marriage form) then she would be the perfect host to spread The Shimmer into the world. 

This might all sound crazy but I think it is backed up with Garland's original ending with the identity of which Lena escaped the lighthouse being unrevealed and a meteor shower with more possible points of Shimmer arriving on Earth as the movie ended. The idea would be that The Shimmer would eventually spread and change the world. In the version we get, the plan is more covert and perhaps less destructive, focusing on only the annihilation of the self-destruction in the people it will spread to.

But that's just my idea. There are a few ways that this movie can be looked at and examined. There can be discussions about the ouroboros tattoo that appears on different characters, animals mimicking people and other animals, Josie turning into a plant form, doppelgangers and "echoes" that occur in the movie, including Lena's house appearing in the swamp in Shimmer form. I'll have to see it again to truly get everything.

I guess I did enjoy Annihilation. It's just a movie that isn't straightforward and requires some speculation to fully appreciate it.

Sean Fields is an aspiring writer and has been in the education field for more than a decade. He works mostly with teenagers nowadays which both keeps him well informed on pop culture and makes his hair turn grayer daily. He has a few blogs but is currently focused on this one and this other one. You can also find him on TumblrTwitter and Instagram, if you want to be entertained or infuriated.
Extinction Level Event (The Song Of Salvation) Extinction Level Event (The Song Of Salvation) Reviewed by SeanFields on Tuesday, March 06, 2018 Rating: 5
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