Annihilation — The Art of Self-Destruction

Annihilation — The Art of Self-Destruction


Hi, I’m Michael. This is Lessons from the Screenplay. Every genre brings with it a set of expectations that shapes the kind of stories it can tell
and the themes it can explore. And as Alex Garland, writer/director of Annihilation
says, science fiction is perhaps the best genre
to openly explore fundamental ideas of existence: “When I first started, I always felt like
I had to smuggle ideas into the stories. And, I realized increasingly that in science
fiction you have permission for big ideas. You didn’t have to feel embarrassed about
the idea, in fact it’s almost encouraged.” So today, I’d like to investigate how Annihilation
takes biological, existential concepts and translates them into narrative elements… …to explore how these are expressed in every
element of the story, from the characters, to the environment, to the monsters that inhabit it… …and to examine how subverting one of the
fundamental elements of character creates an experience that is truly alien. Let’s take a look at Annihilation. On the surface, Annihilation is about a group of scientists
trying to understand a strange phenomenon. They venture beyond an otherworldly border
called the “Shimmer,” into which teams of researchers have been
sent before, only to never be heard from again. But this premise serves to explore the deeper
ideas of duplication, self-destruction, and mutation, which are directly introduced at the beginning
of the film through a brief lesson in biology. “This is a cell. Like all cells, it is born from an existing
cell.” We’re shown how a cell creates new life
via duplication. But this cell isn’t a normal cell. “The cell we’re looking at is from
a tumor.” This is a cancer cell—a product of our own
bodies that may eventually kill us. Self-destruction. And as Lena says later in the script, during
a flashback to this moment: “We can describe cancer as a mutation that
causes unregulated cell growth. It changes us.” Mutation. These concepts are inspired by the fundamental
elements of life itself, so how do you explore them in a narrative? In Annihilation, the design of the characters is used to express
the theme of self-destruction. Every character in Annihilation is dealing
with self-destruction. “We’re all damaged goods here. Anya is sober, therefore an addict. Josie wears long sleeves because she doesn’t
want you to see the scars on her forearms. I also lost someone. A daughter. Leukaemia.” Ventress, who leads the expedition, is using
the mission as a kind of suicide. “Ventress had cancer, she was never coming
back.” And Lena, the protagonist, volunteers as a way to try to atone for her
self-destructive actions. Over the course of the film, we learn that
Lena had an affair, which is part of what drove her husband to
enter the Shimmer in an earlier expedition, eventually leading to his own self-destruction. Each character represents a variation on theme
of self-destruction. Demonstrating theme through character design
is a technique found in all genres, but science fiction is particularly good at expressing abstract ideas through the story
world. In Annihilation, the story world is used to
express mutation. The setting of a story can be a powerful way
to express ideas and reflect the hero’s journey. In Annihilation, the story is set inside the
Shimmer, a place of constant mutation. “More mutations.” “They’re everywhere.” “Malignant. Like tumors.” This is one of the advantages of science fiction— the writer can imagine a story world that
embodies an idea. What if the DNA of all life in an area was
being mutated? What kind of environment would that create? What kind of animals might one encounter? Embracing the science fiction genre allows the concept of mutation to become literal
in a row of beautiful flowers… …or a terrifying monster. “Sheppard!” In one of the most memorable scenes of the
film, mutation is used to create a new twist on
a classic horror scene. Thorensen is losing her grip on reality and has tied her fellow team members to chairs, when she suddenly hears the voice of Sheppard— who was killed by a bear earlier in the film. “Help me!” “Help me!” “Cass?” But… “It’s not Sheppard. It’s the bear-like creature that killed
her. Mutated jaw. Hairless, strangely pigmented skin. Lesions. Then the Bear opens its jaws, and a human-like
noise emerges.” (distorted human noises—“help me!”) But the Shimmer does more than simply mutate
the DNA of the life forms within it. It also makes copies of things, like a cell. Lena sees a strange copy of a deer in the
forest. The house the team stays in is a copy of Lena’s
own home. And the Kane that leaves the Shimmer and returns
to Lena is actually a copy of the real Kane who committed
suicide. But the most dramatic example is found in
the climactic scene of the film, which is designed around the concept of duplication. While genre can allow for creative freedoms, one of the challenges of working within genre
conventions is that you can find yourself in very familiar
territory. In the finale of Annihilation, when Lena finally
confronts the alien, Alex Garland had to find a way to provide
a unique spin on a well-worn sci-fi situation. “When we deal with aliens we often make
them like us in some way. Maybe they want to eat us, or maybe they want
our water, our resources. But these are all sort of human concerns. We are motivated by things, and we have agendas, and an alien might not have an agenda or might not be motivated. And so it was it was an attempt to create
an alien alien.” In Annihilation, the alien is unknowable. This is achieved by subverting the fundamental
element that drives every character in a story: desire. “It’s not like us. It’s unlike us. I don’t know what it wants. Or if it wants.” The alien lacks any definitive motivation, and this absence makes it entirely unpredictable. The physical form of the alien is also completely
unrelatable. As Ventress deteriorates, new forms begin
to emerge… “Then finally, the unfolding coalesces into
a new shape. Entirely non-human. At this moment we are seeing the Alien. Its actual form. A Mandelbulb creature from the world of visualised
mathematics. Infinitely complex, inexplicable in its movement.” Then, it becomes something more familiar. “It expands. Transforms. And resolves – – into a humanoid figure. Sexless. Featureless. Having the arms, legs, head and torso of a
human – man or woman. But nothing else.” A kind of duplication of Lena’s form. And this idea of a mirrored duplication is
expressed not just in the form it takes, but in the design of how the entire climactic
scene plays out. “Lena scrambles across the room – – towards the door to the lighthouse. But she doesn’t make it. The Humanoid simply appears in front of her,
before she reaches the door. It is unclear how it got there. A frozen beat. Then Lena strikes the Humanoid with all her
strength. And a moment later, in a mirror of her actions
– – the Humanoid strikes her back – but
with incredible power. The Humanoid is mimicking her. She is fighting herself.” In the final moments of the encounter, the humanoid shape mutates to become a literal
duplicate of Lena, and in the end, she is only able to escape by tricking it into doing what all the humans
in this story are best at: Self-destruction. Annihilation is a great example of how a film
can serve as an exploration of an idea. It embraces its science fiction genre, taking the fundamental process of how life
spreads and evolves, and expressing it in the setting of the story and the forces of antagonism that inhabit it… It unites all of this under the thematic umbrella of humans’ tendency toward self-destruction to create a powerful and intriguing cinematic
experience… And demonstrates how something new can be
created following annihilation. When Alex Garland adapted Annihilation from
the book, he used a unique approach. Rather than try to adapt the plot beat-by-beat, he decided to adapt it based on his memory
of the book. I think it made for a very interesting film, but if you’re curious to check out the original
text, you can download the audiobook of Annihilation
today for free with Audible. Audible has the largest selection of audiobooks
on the planet, and every month Audible members get one credit
good for any audiobook they choose, plus two Audible Originals from a changing
selection you can’t get anywhere else. So go to audible.com/lfts or text “lfts”
to 500 500 to start a thirty-day trial and get your first audiobook for free. Once again, that’s audible.com/lfts or text
“lfts” to 500 500. Thanks to Audible for sponsoring this video. Hey guys! I am up here at my parents’ house for the holidays, but I wanted to say thank you, as always to my patrons on Patreon and supporters here on YouTube for making this channel possible. I hope you had a very happy holidays, and have a wonderful new year. Thanks for watching, and I’ll see you next time.

100 thoughts on “Annihilation — The Art of Self-Destruction

  1. this movie feels like the closest attempt at capturing lovecraftian horror. Just the design of the light orb, and mimmic scene just really gives me a feeling of otherwordly horror that you cannot even imagine. She does a good job of looking into while not showing any particular emotion other than she cannot even imagine what she is seeing. To feel like you are trully insignificant as part of the universe. Great movie. that score also greatly helps the ending as well.

  2. The multiple scenes with the bear are the most viscerally disturbing yet most alluring scenes in recent sci-fi media. Compelling and convincing human screams from the mouth of a hideously mutated bear left me unable to look away and simultaneously shook me to my core. Annihilation in and of itself was a visual and narrative masterpiece from start to end.

  3. This movie showed that destruction doesn't have to be intentional, Ill motivated and cruel. It can be innocent, beautiful and gentle but consuming. Sad, terrifying and alien.

  4. Sexless. Featureless. Having the arms, legs, head, and torso of a human – man or woman. But nothing else.

    So… a liberal.

  5. One of the best book(s) to movie adaptations ever. Completely different. But I think that's a good thing. Love the sound in this movie. A lot of people didn't like Natalie Portmans acting. I loved it, she portrayed the character of the book perfectly.

  6. You should do some older movies. I keep having to skip your videos because I haven't seen the movies you're analyzing yet and I don't want to spoil them. Although, I do sometimes watch a movie just because you analyzed it, but still.

  7. I love the Southern Reach Trilogy in which Annihilation is based on the first book. It's refreshingly short for a trilogy but it holds so many fascinating yet very difficult to grasp concepts but still impossible to put down.

  8. Lena referenced that the alien didn't want anything. Strip away desire, love, hate, morality, spirituality. Isn't life "something" that just keeps perpetuating itself? Is it a creative presence that directs? Malevolent? Or just infinite mitosis? I thought the movie was pointing at infinite, non-directed mitosis.

  9. Cool, Padme teams up with Ventress. 

    I'm kind of sad that Natalie Portman listened to the crap that the Star Wars Prequel haters spewed and grew ashamed of her role in those movies. She did a good job as Padme. Hell, the Prequel haters may be to blame for her siding with the feminazis because back in the day, she was proud that being a woman made her different from men.

  10. My sister was watching this film the other day actually. All she said was “it has the most anti climatic ending”

    Ngl I just clicked on this vid bc I like this style of video rather than what it was about.

    Might check out the film for some context

  11. So, every movie analysis now uses the word "subvert" as a primary driver.
    Fuck, not only are movies dead, so are analyses.

  12. i guess the moral of this movie is that i need to find a dark hole to crawl in and die. aw! Xs are the bestest!………… note to all you future male victims out there if you wanna get out of a relationship get the girl to dump you or you will be paying for it for the rest of your life.

  13. We have 38 trillion of cells in our body….one of them might start to act differently than usual, like all mecanical object, it happens, but a bad cell will reproduce into a twin and then the chain reaction starts, life is pretty amazing and stable, I meant when you think about it, the occurence is pretty rare

  14. The Problem with science fiction is the people who creates those aliens rarely thinks of evolution,,,,, an alien who can shape itself is not complex and not well thought, first, no one think of the ''cube law'' or why would a create would evolve like this, it would make no sense since the creature has no motivation has you said, how can it be complex yet evolve without motivation, it makes no sense, the only way this could happen, complex and unmotivated would be if the creature was a plant…. to me,…. Star Trek TNG is the only show that understands aliens, Watch episode 20 of season 6, The chase , I know star trek is a little shitty on the side but the …. i got tired of typing, no one will read this anyway

  15. I really want someone to talk about the strange conceptual similarities between this movie and Tarkovsky’s “Stalker”, because I felt shadows of that film all through this one. The shimmer is The Zone, the lighthouse the room, the Shimmers strange ability to draw the self destructive is the Zone’s strange ability to only allow the passage of the hopeless. It’s something I feel worth an in-depth analysis

  16. So, did the copy of Lena escape the lighthouse or did the original Lena? The ending was so ambiguous.

  17. I rewatched Stalker last night. It definitely has some interesting parallels to this films source material. Visually speaking I thought that Annihilation brought a lot to the table, but narratively it was lacking a great deal. Its interesting you say the director wrote the screenplay based off his memory of the story because he excluded some of the most powerful elements of the story, such as the increasing worries of deception and the unfolding of lies of the characters. Made for very dynamic moments while danger always seems to be around every corner…who can she trust, are the people more dangerous than the loud sounds she hears at night?

  18. I had reserves going in to watch this movie, because I'm not huge on scifi, but I was not disappointed! Great story, great cast, great visuals.

  19. This movie was Garbage…poorly written,poorly acted..not to mention they ripped off S.t.a.l.k.e.r…lol

  20. I really like the design of the alien's initial form. Very cool description also. I never saw this in theaters when it came out and I seriously regret it.

  21. I really hated this movie. The book was pretty frustrating to slog through and the movie was worse. It could have been good, but I feel like nearly every role was miscast. I wouldn't mind seeing it remade in a few years.

  22. I watch lit everything you produce, and across the board, its all fantastic, but this … this one is special … I saw this movie, and I consider myself an advanced filmgoer, studied film theory in uni, all that good stuff, but I really really didnt get this one, didnt care for it … I watch this and Im blown away … bravo Sir for shedding light in my darkness.

  23. The movie was good. I just feel it should have been credited as inspired by Jeff Van Dermeers' Annihilation and let there be a true adaption.

  24. Lessons from the Screenplay, please can you suggest some films for me to watch if I enjoyed Annihilation? I'm feeling a bit stuck and would honestly appreciate your (or other users within your comments) input here. I just want some things to sink my teeth into and 'discover'. Thanks in advance.

  25. The digital artists responsible for realizing the unknowable beauty of the shimmer should be proud of themselves. Definitely one of the most imaginative works coming out of science fiction in recent years.

  26. The "Small Beans" podcast covered this. I really loved their take as they are film buffs and writers themselves and are deeply passionate.
    They basically say that the shimmer is a prism for trauma, and Annihilation in itself draws in the question of if we are doomed to be flawed at our most base components. Annihilation in scientific terminology, means to convert matter to energy, and nothing in this film suggests complete and utter destruction, but almost like conversion … everything is melding into itself and being shaped by everything around it. It's a really fantastic metaphor for trauma. Great take, awesome movie. If you want a waaaaay more in depth and mind-opening explanation and interpretation, I'd suggest checking out "Small Beans". They really deserve love, they do amazing work.

  27. I think the best thing about the movie is that I was unsure at the end if it was actually her, or the alien who had survived

  28. Such a great film.
    I love the music when the full "alien" emerges. That light instrumental that gets cut into by the drone synth, really punctuates that "alien" aspect.

  29. The 2 most chilling parts for me was the entrance of the morphed bear and the screamed it made in place of how a normal bear would sound and when the alien turned into a sexless hybrid she tried to fight but realized it was mimicking her and the tension of how can she get away from it without hitting it given how much stronger it was basically leaving her no choice but to go the same rout her husband did, only difference was she wasn’t ready to die. A wonderful movie I thought this was!

  30. Something people don't talk about is the music. Or, in a way, the sound of the music. Those synth noises during the climax, which clearly represent the alien, give it a multi-dimensional look at raises the tension beyond simple nervousness. And it's great

  31. I waited to watch this video until after I watched the movie. I'm at a loss of words trying to describe it. But your analysis was spot-on, as usual. Keep up the outstanding work. Your videos are head and shoulders above the rest. everyone else.

  32. When the bear screams for help amidst the girls, my blood started boiling and all my hair stood up.
    I have never experienced such a (literal) thrill from any other film, not this powerful at least.

  33. This movie was like a ride on a high dose of psychedelics. The meteor in the beginning like a strong hit you consumed and the realization that it is you and you are it, leaving you a different person coming back from the experience in the end.

  34. Dude, your videos are gorgeous. It is just so perfect how you put them together, with the little directing notes and all. You just make amazing content. And you are unbelievably talented. Hands down one of my favorite channels. Thank you! Lots of Love, -C

  35. I have a very polarized view of 'Annihilation' the film. On one hand, it's a gorgeous, mind-bending, slow-burning, thought-provoking work of art. On the other, it utterly, deeply betrays its source material. Not trying to trash-talk the film, because it is very good, but the more I think about the more true it feels. It strips away the Thoreauvian,  ecological themes central to the book (which I find underused in a serious manner in cinema), all of the story except for the scenes where the Biologist's husband arrives home and the team enters Area X, heavily borrows elements from H. P. Lovecraft's 'The Colour Out of Space' while rejecting all of the breathtakingly unique imagery and creations of the novels (like the Tower and Crawler, which were not minor details at all but what the whole thing revolved around), totally changes the characters in terms of both appearance and personality (except for the biologist), removes the profound environmental debates and analyses that added so much depth to the original, ignores the fact that the novels are not three separate stories but one long story, and all in all removes any trace of Jeff VanderMeer's essence. My appreciation for the film grows the more I watch it, but so does the feeling that I would rather have seen someone like Terrence Malick or Darren Aronofsky or Robert Eggers who are skilled with surrealism but can give the natural world the depth and centrality it deserves adapt the material.

  36. film and story seem really great… but i think i am not going to watch it because there are no man in it. 🙂 sounds stupid but that goes against my beliefs of equality. seriously… we have 2020 and people still make films with 99% just woman!

  37. As a biologist and a fan of sci-fi, this movie just bugged me, mostly because of my expectations going into it. I had heard that it was some deeply intellectual science fiction, and that it would be particularly rewarding for someone with some knowledge of biology. Quite the opposite.
    This movie is not science fiction. It is science fantasy. It is ridiculous at nearly every turn.
    Science explores the rules that govern the universe. Science fiction should explore what the future could be like with rules we're just starting to understand, or possibly what the world be like if we tweaked one of those rules.
    Star Trek is sci-fi. Alien is sci-fi. Blade Runner is sci-fi.
    Dr. Who, on the other hand, is science fantasy (high fantasy, really). They're just making stuff up and running with it. Is it fun? Sure. But there's nothing remotely science about any of it. It's just fantasy with lots of tech instead of with elves.
    Star Wars was more science fantasy than science fiction (and you only need look at midichlorians to see how pissed people got when Lucas actually tried to make it legitimate sci-fi).

    This movie is a sci-fantasy horror. It may have value as that kind of movie, but it's just bad as far as science fiction goes.

  38. This movie is the only piece of media that has ever been able to give me the same feeling as The Left/Right game. If you haven't read the Left/Right game i really suggest you do, its a reddit nosleep story. Its kinda long, its 10 parts long, but if you like movies like this you will love it.

  39. 💫👻🐍🕷🐍👻💫 SIMPLY DATA. December of '14 is when I last saw physicians and had brief hospital stay. My RBC's were in over production alongside WBC's. I did NOT follow up with any referrals after discharge.

    It's currently 30 September 2019. I've been living off of TVP for several months and have been very negligent with supplements and teas. I can hardly move around here and it's too hot for tea's.

    My right leg is making me think blood cancer has converted to skin cancers.

    I'm STILL YOUR SLAVE and no body will directly talk to me or be around.

    We've called and called and called. The world is full of GD mf'ing LIARS and HYPOCRITES.

    Not one of the self proclaimed "Royal's" or "saints" have reached out. They CONTINUALLY SHIT AND SPIT in my face and that of MY BLOOD FAMILY!

    The A-holes have already MURDERED MY PATERNAL BLOOD and William "Bill" Cooper. Cooper is my parental blood

    Find the video of Bill calling Alex Jones out. He was murdered sometime after that.

    Zachary Hubbard shares the gematria of THEIR murder by numbers games.

    Bye for now.

  40. The idea of an all female team on a dangerous expediton is so phoney in the first place that I couldn't get through the 'shimmer' of wokeness…so I guess I'll never know.

  41. I've seen movies like Antchrist and the VViitch, I'm a volunteer medic that has witnessed awful things– I don't feel safe after watching Annihilation. Cripes.

  42. SPOILERS BELOW

    I absolutely LOVE the concept of this, and everything else within the movie. However, I cannot handle that level of intensity and dread very well- I only got to the part where they showed a video clip of a man's worm-like, moving intestines. It was too much for me, and I almost vomited. Very intense sci-fi movies like this one are just not for me, no matter the quality. Beautiful movie, beautiful effects, touching acting. This movie has it all.

  43. Anihilation is a bout postmodernism, its effect on society and gender collisions. Postmodernism stemming from absolute relativism really deconstructs and reshuffles the fabric of our perception. Notice one thing in particular, a beacon of knowledge and wisdom, a guide that is our academia, is presented trough a metaphor that is lighthouse. This alien form that has breached to the foundations of this lighthouse, has no form, no strict shape, it is abstract, just like postmodernism ie. relativism which really challenges everything in philosophy. Up or down as a term is relative, biological species, race, genders, all of those are challenged with this absolute relativism in philosophy. So this lighthouse has a growing bubble around it, which is growing and deconstructing and reconstructing everything inside of it. Every form has changed its shape and composition, its own being. So this particular couple is broken, a man is representing sort of a traditional male stereotype, a soldier and of course it is given a mission to collide and deal with this unknown entity. Couple is broken apart. First clue for gender-race divisions are given trough this aspect and also trough the fact that the main protagonist is having an affair with a black guy, both which are in academia in teaching positions. Males of course fall under this phenomena and the female expedition is sent to explore it. Note that ALL of the members of female team have some emotional and psychological issues. They go in the bubble and of course they start changing as well. Our main hero survives, but partially because she is a fighter, she has something that her male counterpart has, a military background. So this very thing that made male group stereotypical, made her resilient. She reaches to the lighthouse, learns that her husband died there, or in our translated meaning he got transformed by this phenomena. She faces the source of this phenomena and gets transformed as well. She is a duplicate, we are not sure what she is, neither does she… But after she gave the last push of resistance, using the very skills of traditionally male trades of being a soldier, she finally destroys the alien phenomena and comes out alive. Both her and her partner continue together, but they are fundamentally changed forever.

    This movie is about the academia, the impact of postmodernism on genders and their relationships, their roles. One of the conclusions is that to overcome this cultural crisis we will all have to face it and price could be that the former images and cultural baggage has to be transformed. Only by sacrificing for each other can we find meaning in this absolute relativistic and quite obviously nonconstructive branch of philosophy. Relativism is in a way a cancerous phenomena in philosophy, when you look at it. It doesn't offer form, it doesn't have a purpose unless it is deconstruction, in and of itself. What is the question one almost always uses in relativism to challenge some paradigm? It is "relative to what?" question, or "who's to say that is the case, from the other perspective it is something other than…". You don't build a system on absolute relativism, you collapse it. And the destruction in this sense is expressed trough aberration of forms. Gender is clearly a huge aspect in this movie and from what I've observed it lines up pretty straight forward trough these culturally relevant burning issues in western societies.

  44. The sound track did an incredibly good job at driving home that moment of existential dread when the alien is first revealed.

  45. I loved this movie so very much. Except for one thing. After having been attacked by the crocodile thingy (the first attack in the movie) they immediately decide to go paddling hehe. They were scientists and trained professionals and not one of them said "should we really do that?" =P

  46. Alex Garland is truly a master of psychological and sci-fi horror. He genuinely and accurately captured the nerve-wracking nature of cosmic horror. And the musical score. Man that was on another level. It's like reliving your most disturbing dream through audiovisual experience, like LCD on the flesh. Not only did the movie jncorporated themes like self destruction, reincarnation, and humanity, it also opened a discussion about the vastness of the unknowable universe

  47. Strangely enough, the movie itself wasn’t what unnerved me the most, but it was the soundtrack. I watched it with the dvd release and after the movie finished the music for the menu started playing and I hard to turn it off because it started to freak me out
    Maybe I’m just weird but that really stuck with me
    I thought the movie was interesting though, I liked it but it wouldn’t be something I’d be recommending to everyone

  48. when I saw it I couldn't stop thinking that this movie was a 2018's version of Stalker, I was so surprised to see that it was an adaption from another book than the one by the Strougatski brothers, there were so many parallels

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