In the name of female gender glorification, ‘Annihilation’ presents illogical garbage disguised as sci-fi

Published: March 22, 2018
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The whole screenplay is just absurd, as opposed to being intriguing. PHOTO: IMDB

It is understandable that when it comes to political correctness in filmmaking, you can’t be too careful in this day and age. One inappropriate casting decision, and you are bashed left, right and centre all over social media, which invariably leads to poor box-office numbers.

It is perfectly justified when studios are roasted for absurd whitewashing practices. However, all this racial and gender diversification in movies simply to pander to the supersensitive millennials – who take offense to anything and everything –  is just as absurd as Jake Gyllenhaal playing the Prince of Persia.

I am all for strong female characters in movies but – and all the feminists will hate me for this – these roles should not be shoved down our collective throats. Especially when it’s blatantly obvious that the primary objective is simply to indulge the “outrage brigade”, without any regards to the actual narrative requirements.

While a lot of recent movies are guilty of the aforementioned, Alex Garland’s Annihilation takes the proverbial cake with its strong female ensemble sci-fi drama.

Based on Jeff VanderMeer’s terrifying eco-horror novel of the same name, Annihilation kicks off when an unknown object crashes into a lighthouse on the US coastline. It immediately creates a shimmery bubble around the area that mutates all plant and animal life within it, and more importantly, starts seeping into the outside world, which slowly and gradually starts eroding.

Photo: IMDb

The government swiftly quarantines the whole place, with only the military given access to the affected zone, now dubbed as ‘The Shimmer’. Numerous Armed Special Forces are then sent in to take stock, but no living creature has managed to emerge alive from the area, with Sergeant Kane (Oscar Isaac) being the only exception. He then succeeds in reaching out to his cellular biologist wife, Lena (Natalie Portman), but without any recollection of his time spent inside ‘The Shimmer’, he promptly falls into a coma.

Photo: Paramount Pictures

Photo: IMDb

Lena – now determined to find out what has happened to her husband – elects to be recruited by the government along with a psychologist (Jennifer Leigh), a physicist (Tessa Thomspon), an anthropologist (Tuva Novotny), and a paramedic (Gina Rodriguez), to embark upon an expedition into the enigmatic quarantined zone.

Photo: Paramount Pictures

Upon entering Area X, our Bechdel-friendly cast is now part of a realm where vanishing colleagues, deadly animals and co-existing with an ominous otherworldly presence is just another day at work. The rest of the story is spoiler territory.

A movie which was primarily made to celebrate strong and intelligent women, ironically ends up making them look like total idiots. The writing, which is supposed to be thought provoking, is at a plane which is beyond all levels of absurd.

Garland made a strong impression with his debut feature, Ex Machina, as it was a deeply intellectual movie, which is why a lot of film critics were expecting his second film to follow in the same footsteps. But all you get out of Annihilation is one common sense-defying sequence after the other.

The worst part? All of it is done at the expense of the female characters we are meant to cherish.

Such instances include a team of female scientists being made to enter a zone from where virtually no one has ever returned, and that too without trained military professionals. I mean, we get it, the girls are all brave and gutsy, but there exists an idea known as sensible planning. Even if they were highly desperate to cast a power filled light on the female stars, they could have at least sent them in with a female army unit.

Photo: Paramount Pictures

Also, who in their right mind decides to traverse a mutated area in the waters and on tiny row boats, immediately after being confronted by a vicious alien alligator? Surprise surprise, our band of foolish leading ladies!

Photo: Paramount Pictures

The aforementioned instances are just two small examples of logic being totally tossed aside in a supposedly smart sci-fi drama. The whole screenplay is just absurd, as opposed to being intriguing.

However, let’s give credit where credit is due, for the film is visually stunning. The production design, covering a vibrant flora and fauna, is somewhat similar to the landscape shown in Avatar. The lead actresses are bearable, and do try their best to make something out of the ridiculous script.

Photo: IMDb

There are much better movies (Blade Runner, The Arrival, District 9, Minority Report, Ex Machina, and so on) out there if intelligent sci-fi is what you are after. They may or may not pass the Bechdel Test, but at least you will not be missing out on a precious couple of hours of your life wasted on illogical garbage, in the name of female gender glorification.

Hassan Sardar

Hassan Sardar

The author is an aspiring filmmaker and a diehard Liverpool fan. He also teaches Screenwriting and Cinematography, and loves tattoos and flip-flops. He tweets as @CineSardar (twitter.com/CineSardar)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Kanwal Tariq

    Wonderfully written. Now I know what to expect from this movie DxRecommend

  • Vince

    Movies make a lot more sense when you pay attention. Almost every issue you point out can be solved by, you know, watching the movie. Most importantly you say: “Such instances include a team of female scientists being made to enter a zone from where virtually no one has ever returned, and that too without trained military professionals. I mean, we get it, the girls are all brave and gutsy, but there exists an idea known as sensible planning.” You missed the whole part where Lena was in the military for years? The other women were extensively trained as well. That was the whole point of the Southern Reach. Also…you do realize they pretty much all died, right? You’re saying that they’re glorifying them and making them out to be superheroes, but they’re actually shown to be quite human and fallible, prone to mistakes in dangerous situations.

    I feel like you probably could have figured that out. I think your judgement is clouded by the fact that you’re just too offended by women being the focus of the movie. If you really think that women being capable of solving problems is the most unrealistic part of this movie, I think you need to reevaluate some things.Recommend

  • Udayan Majumdar

    I think the critic has not understood the movie. All the women who embarked on the journey were internally damaged one way or the other, as one was suicidal and another was diagnosed with cancer. Similarly each woman had her issues… The title is annihilation, it was reflecting the choices which we make in our life and also sometimes, knowingly we do things which are self destructive in nature.
    The critic here is unable to move beyond ‘on the surface’ level plot line, and doesn’t really delve into the inner meaning the film wants to convey. I strongly suggest the critic should watch the film again. Recommend

  • Irfan

    Totally disagree with the writer.
    The story especially the ending is excellent.
    However, I will agree the the all female actors performance do lack passion and energy that was required by the movie.Recommend

  • junaidslife

    Lmao why so much hate, almost came as a misogynist like damnnn calm down son.Recommend

  • cabalco

    What a useless article. Its a mind bending movie. The sequences are not to be taken literally. The shimmer is in the American south, that itself is a clue. Recommend

  • M Arshman Naveed

    The book very clearly states why an all female team was sent inside. Different combinations of people are sent inside to vary the participants and find the best combination for survival. Natalie Portman’s character is literally a former marine? I think a better title for the article should be “In the name undisguised hatred for all media that doesn’t portray men as the protagonists, Hassan Sardar presents illogical garbage as a film review.”Recommend