The Eden and Armageddon of Annihilation

From Annihilation, trailer screenshot courtesy Paramount Pictures

Want to know what Annihilation has on its mind? Look no further than Lena’s tattoo.

It appears to be an ouroboros—a snake curled in the shape of a figure-eight, eating its own tail. For millennia, this and similar images have been symbols for the paradoxical cycles of existence: creation and destruction, birth and death. We don’t know when Lena (Natalie Portman) had the tattoo done, or why. Seems an odd choice to me. But man, does it fit with her experience behind the Shimmer.

Ah, the Shimmer—a bubble of unexplained, unearthly activity centered around a lush, unnamed section of the southeast United States. The government’s investigating it, but the investigation’s not going well: Just about everything and everyone they send through the bubble’s walls never returns, with just one exception: Lena’s husband, Kane (Oscar Isaac).

But while Kane did come back, he came back … changed. He can’t remember where he’s been or what he’s done. Or maybe he’s just not saying. No matter: He’s dying now, and soon he won’t be saying much at all.

But the world still needs answers. Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a psychologist in charge of picking the Shimmer’s teams of explorers says it could be “a religious event, an extraterrestrial event,” almost anything. The only thing anyone knows for sure is that it’s getting bigger.

Ventress organizes yet another team to dive into the bubble, this one made up of primarily scientists and strictly women, and one led by Ventress herself. Lena volunteers. And so they into the Shimmer—forming the basis of one of the strangest, most thoughtful sci-fi movies I’ve seen in recent years.

It’s also among the most deeply, sometimes frustratingly religious, too—one that plucks many of its themes straight from the first few books of Genesis. Let me give you a sample of some connections between this good movie and the Good Book. And fair warning: A few spoilers lie ahead. If you’re planning to watch Annihilation, just come back.

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