Director: Alex Garland (“Ex Machina”)

Starring: Natalie Portman (“Black Swan”), Jennifer Jason Leigh (“The Hateful Eight”) and Oscar Isaac (“Star Wars” episodes VII and VIII)

Rating: R, for violence, bloody images, language, and some sexuality.

Showing: Roseburg Cinema

Many movies today are only skin deep, just offering an entertaining fun time. Not this one. Director Alex Garland has provided audiences with a puzzle of “Annihilation.” His film wants audiences to really question almost every aspect of the movie. From questioning “The Shimmer” to the nature of evil.

“Annihilation” tells the story of Lena, a biologist played by Natalie Portman. Lena embarks on an expedition with four other women to discover an extraterrestrial anomaly encompassing an area of a state park. This area is referred to as “The Shimmer.” Their goal is to find the source of the anomaly, but what they find pushes the limits of a science fiction movie. Along the way, she and her team encounter a beautiful and haunting world that defies the laws of nature.

“Annihilation” demands thought out and discussion. It’s not a movie to walk in and out. Its story is too complex, its world too unique, and its ending too mind blowing.

Almost all aspects of the movie are surrounded by mystery from the very small marketing campaign to the unrevealing trailer. Most viewers will have no clue what the movie is about prior to watching it. But this is the absolute best way to see the movie. The lack of marketing or initial exposure to the film is intentional. Even this review is vague because of this reason. The best way to experience this film is to walk in completely blind.

Some of the best aspects of the film come through Natalie Portman’s team. Her entire group of scientists are women. This provides a new experience as opposed to the stereotypical shoot-em-up group of men the sci fi genres are known for. The women methodically walk through this world thinking and analyzing it with a feeling of tenderness. They admire the beautiful creatures and nature around them instead of shooting anything that may seem dangerous, leaving everything mostly untouched.

One minor drawback to the film can be found in the subplot that takes place involving Natalie Portman’s character and a colleague.  The relationship attempts to add more depth to her character and though it does add some important elements to the story, the flashbacks could have been shorter.

The movie sometimes holds the viewers at arm’s length. This prevents viewers from feeling attached or invested in the characters. Even though Natalie Portman’s character capitivates and holds the viewer’s attention on her journey through “The Shimmer”, most viewers may not find themselves really investing in her character.

However, this actually benefits the film. Instead of getting caught up in character drama, viewers focus all their attention on discovering the mysteries of “Annihilation.” So even though there isn’t a huge amount of character development it works flawlessly with this movie. For example, if viewers were so caught up in conflict between characters they might miss the exact purpose(?) of “The Shimmer”.

“Annihilation” may not be for everyone. It requires deep thinking and focus. Film buffs, science fiction lovers and anyone who likes to think will love “Annihilation.” But for those who would rather relax and be entertained for two hours, watch the newest Marvel movie instead.

With recent films such a “Arrival,” “Blade Runner 2049,” and now “Annihilation,” the science fiction genre of film is quickly evolving into one to be respected and admired. No longer is a sci-fi movie only superheroes and alien space battles. No, sci-fi is finally establishing itself as a legitimately solid genre with the help of films like “Annihilation.” For this reason “Annihilation” is not a movie to be missed, or one to be soon forgotten.