Biologist Lena (Natalie Portman) discovers something really bizarre in Alex Garland’s Annihilation. (Source: The Atlantic)
Alex Garland has changed the way of how we see horror and science-fiction. He first received attention from writing the screenplays for the zombie movies 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later. His directorial debut, Ex Machina, became one of the best sci-fi movies of the century. Not only does it generate brilliant ideas and makes you think, it also makes you send shivers down your spine and goes in ways you can never imagine. Annihilation, his sophomore feat (in which he also wrote the screenplay), marks his return to the wonderful world of the two genres.
Based on the book by Jeff VanderMeer, Lena (Natalie Portman) is a biology professor with military background. She’s dealing with the loss of her husband Kane (Oscar Isaac, the second collaboration with Garland) for about a year. One day, she ends up at a government facility and meets psychologist Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh). She assigns Lena to embark on a mission into “The Shimmer”, an environmental disaster zone where an alien presence is presumed to be located. Along with physicist Josie (Tessa Thompson, Thor: Ragnarok), geologist Cass (Tuva Novotny), and paramedic Anya (Gina Rodriguez), Lena discovers the mysterious area of flashing colors and mystical creatures. Once they enter The Shimmer, they will never be the same.
It’s better going in Annihilation without knowing too much of the narrative. I certainly had no idea what I was in for until the movie started. After the movie, I had a similar reaction to Arrival, another sci-fi movie. It blew me away yet I knew I had to see it again.
Portman, leading a gifted cast, delivers the best performance of her career as Lena, who traces her husband’s team’s tracks into the unknown. It doesn’t take long for her and the team to go the downward spiral into madness. This is something terrifying yet truly dazzling. It’s the old-fashioned science-fiction containing unique ideas overshadowing overblown action. The final act (containing minimal dialogue) is something to behold like the rest of the movie. One of the best films so far this year!
Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and his lads try to spot Apocalypse in X-Men: Apocalypse
Bryan Singer returns for the fourth time as director in the X-Men franchise. His 2000 film introduced a world of mutants with different abilities. Along with its superior sequel, X2: X-Men United, it definitely ranks among one of my favorite character studies. After the disastrous The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the franchise does back to where things started for Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr in X-Men: First Class and having their older counterparts come back in Days of Future Past—which features one of the coolest action set pieces ever. Along with the other mutants, they begin to face the ultimate test in X-Men: Apocalypse.
In 1983, the rivalry of Professor X/Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto/Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) is put to a rest. Xavier is still running his “School for Gifted Youngsters”. He gets an unexpected visitor. Raven (Jennifer Lawrence, who is rocking that ‘80s look) warns Xavier about Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac), the world’s first immortal mutant who ruled Ancient Egypt with an iron fist. Now, he is back to gain control of the mutants and destroy humanity to make his own order. Along with Nightcrawler (Kodi Smitt-McPhee), Jean Gray (Sophie Turner, Game of Thrones), Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), the mutants try to destroy the Apocalypse.
What makes the new X-Men movies work is the dynamic between Professor X and Magneto. They were two friends who had an idea that turned into a reality. Then, their friendship drifts them apart once they begin saving the world. In the case of Apocalypse, Singer does an exceptional job providing the devastating side of their rivalry. Furthermore, I appreciated Magneto’s backstory living a quiet life with his family in Poland.
However, Singer has made an undoubtedly ambitious movie. And it’s by far his weakest film in the series. It’s not bad as a lot of critics are saying (49% on Rotten Tomatoes). In my opinion, it’s actually very good. But it has its fair share of faults including Isaac’s portrayal of Apocalypse being a mixed bag—half-menacing; half-weak. As well as the CGI-heavy final act getting a bit out of hand. It’s still an enjoyable sequel. Quicksilver becomes a part in another awesome scene that you should see for yourself.