With "Annihilation," director Alex Garland ("Ex Machina") has given us a "B" movie, all around. Maybe a B-.
Sure, its trailers give us the hint of a video version of a G.I. Jane, "Girls with Guns" calendar, but even that is deceiving. There is never anything sexual implied with the female team that walks into the "Shimmer."
The plot is barely a B-, with one part "Journey into the Unknown" and one part "Werewolf of Lake Placid." The dialogue just does stay believable and the special effects try to overwhelm us with pretty colors and largerthan-life creatures, that are just barely larger than life.
And the ending is more confusing than mysterious.
The stars do well in the "acting" department, while the back-up players look exactly like back-up players.
Natalie Portman ("Leon: The Professional," "V for Vendetta," "Black Swan") stars as Lena, ex-military scientist looking for a cause/solution for her husband's woes.
She always nails that "I'm THINKING here!" look, and her great eyes make close-ups always enjoyable, yet she is not given enough to do in this movie, except in the final scenes.
As Boss Lady, Dr. Ventress, Jennifer Jason Leigh ("Weeds," "Rush," "Delores Claiborne") brings equal parts of creepy and conniving to the movie, although this role was definitely not made for her. It's not that she can't do creepy, she was fantastic in "Single White Female," but the role as Ventress was way too vague and uninteresting.
The rest of the cast were second-tier parts masquerading as top level.
Tessa Thompson ("Creed," "Thor: Ragnarok," "Veronica Mars") as Josie Radek, played the geek, or more precisely the Velma of this Scobey-Doo gang, and did as well as the script allowed, explaining things that the audience had figured out long before this group of scientists have.
Gina Rodriguez ("Jane the Virgin," "Deepwater Horizon," "Sticky Notes") outgrows her television heritage with an attempt as action hero, as Anya Thorensen, also a scientific team member.
The attempt fails, she is no MICHELLE Rodriquez, at least, not yet.
The last member of the team, Tuva Novotny ("Eat, Pray, Love." "ID:A," "Dag") stars as Cass Sheppard, the sensible one. A little high-strung, her character is VERY underwritten, and where she appears to be the most hardcore, it doesn't exactly make her Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Oscar Isaac ("Star Wars: The Last Jedi," "A Most Violent Year," "Inside Llewyn Davis") takes time off from being the new Han Solo to portray Kane, the husband who starts this strange journey.
"Annihilation" makes you want to believe it's an exciting, edge-of-your-seat movie, but as the movie progresses, that seat begins to get really comfortable, and you find yourself falling asleep.
Like I said, a B-.
Billy Summers is a freelance photographer who also reviews films for the Putnam Herald. He can be reached at email@example.com.