Annihilation 4K UHD Blu-ray Review

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Nature Mutation

Five women enter an area known as the “shimmer.” It’s an transparent wall with an angelic, radiant glow, caused by the impact of an asteroid. No one leaves once they enter. Inside, Annihilation divulges why the women chose to pass the shimmer’s outer shell – each is or was traumatized, whether because of emotional pain, personal tragedy, or addiction.

The group enters a sharply drawn sci-fi world. Beautiful, really, despite this shimmer’s capacity for swallowing people whole. Jungle scenery is flush with arrays of flowering plants. Vines take over the few remaining building outposts and new lifeforms make this their home. Annihilation concerns personal self-destruction – by the end in the most literal way – but does so while surrounding characters with gorgeous sights.

For a studio film, it’s unorthodox. Vague, surreal, and frequently miserable. Other than brief flashbacks with Portman and on-screen husband Oscar Isaac, no one finds an avenue for happiness. One round of action is cruelly terrifying, a grand mixture of visual and sound design. Annihilation locks onto a sense of tension and dread, without offering definitive answers. It’s vague and airy even when locked into a shoot-out with an albino alligator.

The structure is divisive, sometimes ponderous, and lacks a dominant climax

There’s a reason for vagueness. Annihilation’s tale of self-mutilation is profound. End results are personal to each viewer. Everyone who enters the shimmer accepted their fate. They seek change; the shimmer provides. Some welcome the chance, even to finality. Others break down.

Natalie Portman carries on, her scientific mind pondering the possibilities. The science aspect of Annihilation is a tale of cells. Division and multiplication; that’s all existence is. Portman’s biologist, the strongest head of the troop, is waylaid by the discoveries in front of her. When Annihilation begins to break down, she merges her sense of awe with fear. She’s no hero though. Annihilation doesn’t have room for one. Instead, she’s as destructive as the rest, and in the end, mortified at what the shimmer can do, even if it’s what life has done since the first cells fluttered to life.

Abrupt shifts in character demeanor and drips of expository horror keeps Annihilation uniquely uncomfortable, if not often exciting. That’s the intent. The open-ended style leaves viewers on their own, questioning the final shot’s morbidity. Annihilation remains true to its name. As to how is left to interpenetration, although getting there isn’t as enlightening as intended.

Video (4K UHD)

Style permeates the visuals of Annihilation. Often soft, dreamlike, and with an anamorphic touch, the finest detail is overridden for much of the runtime. A 4K digital source does provide extensive sharpness when not under the effect post-production tweaks or cinematography’s intent. Jungles stretch tall grass and foliage without any instances of image break-up. In close, facial detail finds a way past the hazy styling.

For such a dreary story, images present a plethora of color. Greenery spurs on natural saturation, including a bevy of flowering plants high on primaries. Flesh tones find accuracy with little deviation. The rainbow effect of the shimmer drives a beautiful array of bright purples, blues, and greens.

Dolby Vision assists by adding intensity to the sunlight often peeking in through the background or between trees. High contrast peppers Annihilation, keeping imagery dense and dimensional. Black levels reach deep, adding tremendous power to a handful of nighttime scenes. Inside of a building, with only blue highlights, blacks reach a perfect depth without a feeling of crush.

Some imperfections do intrude. In flash-forward scenes, Portman sits isolated and interrogated. The solid-colored walls invite banding. Many scenes carry an artificial grain structure too – and in varying intensity – leading to light noise. As Isaac first steps on screen, mosquito noise is evident around his face. A few minutes later, sitting at the kitchen table, a slight ringing effect is evident, if contained to this scene.

Video (Blu-ray)

Blu-ray struggles slightly with the source material. The general haze of the imagery leaves behind noise, this prominent when paired alongside a digital grain. Artifacts can and do slip into shadows. This is notable during the second bear attack; cinematography here finds a small amount of light to work with. With the visual effects, this causes a small digital roadblock.

Otherwise, those gripes aside, Annihilation sports grand color and brightness. Black levels dig in when called on. High sharpness where allowed by the source material gives this disc a great look. Even at 1080p, the wealth of plant life is resolved without issue.

Audio

Both formats come with Dolby Atmos, a superlative mix that traps characters in their environment. Despite the alien setting, birds and other insects call in the positional channels. Rain falls naturally in the rears. Gunfire fills in space the few times it’s utilized. Also, an early raid by government officials uses helicopters sweeping around the upper soundstage effectively.

Matching the morose tone, much of Annihilation prefers a quiet, subdued atmosphere. The score picks up in a few instances with great range, breaking the silence with intensity.

Extras

A making-of is split into three parts… which then split into six parts. That’s a clever nod to Annihilation’s sci-fi, and with a play all choice in each section, no harm comes from it. Around 80-minutes total, the feature offers great insight into the production and writer/director Alex Garland’s interest in the source material. All of this is told with fine production value and without the usual studio ego.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

  • Video (4K UHD)
  • Video (Blu-ray)
  • Audio
  • Extras
3

Movie

While intelligently told, Annihilation suffers from a ponderous pace that makes its subjective finish an eventual letdown.

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