Today I was dealt the combination of having child care duty for our infant and being sick. So I decided to rent a movie I’d been wanting to see so I could watch it while Bump napped, Annihilation.
I’d known about the book of the same title, the first in the Southern Reach Trilogy, for a while. But the trilogy alway seemed to fall off my radar. So when the movie came out I decided to read through the three books, which I managed to do over my kid’s spring break.
I enjoyed the trilogy a great deal, but even as I completed the first book I was thinking to myself, “How on earth are they going to make a movie out of this?”
It turns out, they didn’t.
There are elements from the book which are present in the film. There’s an Area X, the Southern Reach exists, a lighthouse is a key element in the affected area, and Natalie Portman’s character shares the same profession with a character from the novel 1. Watching the film is like seeing the interpretation of someone who heard about the book, picked upon a few key elements, but didn’t catch how they were all connected. The odd thing is, it works.
Annihilation the movie is not Annihilation the book in any way, shape, or form. But had they tried making the book into a movie it would have been bad. The novel is phenomenal, but it’s an internal story – that is, it’s concerned more about what’s going on in the mind of the protagonist than anything else. Being written in first person perspective, it’s geared for this sort of journey. The problem is Annihilation is just weird enough that its introspective nature wouldn’t have worked, people would have spent too much time going, “Huh?” And so we got this adaptation of the novel, which is more of a visual feast than a psychological one. In the end much of the unease about the nature of Area X is left intact in the adaptation, even as many of the specific aspects of the region are altered. The film didn’t leave me as unsettled as the novel, as movies tend to require more closure than The Southern Reach Trilogy is willing to afford, but it still left me pondering what I’d just seen.
This is a film which is a rare instance of me being ok when a movie strays far from it’s source material. Annihilation was able to keep the essence of the novel, even as it wandered far from the Novel’s plot 2. It’s not a bad way to spend a couple of hours, but I’m not bummed I missed it in the theatre.