Annihilation

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Annihilation Movie Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Amazing but challenging, violent sci-fi isn't for everyone.
  • R
  • 2018
  • 115 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 12 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 27 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Implies that to volunteer for a mission like this one, you need to have very little left to live for (i.e., to have suffered a huge personal loss or tragedy), which is rather sad.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Five brave women risk their lives to go on a kind of explore/rescue mission. They're all damaged in some way, but still try to do their job and help one another survive. That the central characters are all female is notable, as it's typical to see men in a movie like this. While controversy has arisen over possible "whitewashing" in key roles, not all of the women are white, and the nonwhite characters are compelling, strong, and interesting.

Violence

Giant monster attacks. Characters killed. Some blood and gore: A man slices into another man's stomach in graphic detail, where his intestines are moving like snakes. Mangled corpses. Shocking, creepy, scary images. Guns and shooting. Rifle butt to face. Explosions. Injection in neck. Mention of a character's past self-harm.

Sex

A couple has sex (extramarital for them both): She's on top, shown from behind from the shoulders up, grinding and breathing; he's shown from the shoulders up, lying on the bed. Married couple shown in bed, wearing underwear and kissing. 

Language

Several uses of "f--k," plus "s--t," "damn," "bitch," "screw," and "God" (as an exclamation).

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adult characters are seen drinking beer.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Annihilation is a brainy but amazing sci-fi movie from the director of Ex Machina and based on Jeff VanderMeer's novel. It has several creepy, scary, and/or unsettling scenes, as well as scenes of blood and gore, monster attacks, guns and shooting, and death. A woman is shown having an affair; sex is implied via moaning and movement (there's no graphic nudity, and the two participants aren't shown on-screen at the same time). There's also a scene of a married couple in bed in their underwear, comfortable and kissing. Language is strong, with several uses of "f--k" and "s--t." It's rare -- but nice! -- to see this type of movie primarily featuring women (Natalie PortmanGina Rodriguez, and Tessa Thompson star). Annihilation is closer in spirit to films like Stalker and 2001: A Space Odyssey than Star Wars or superhero movies, so it might not be for everyone.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 9-year-old Written byPhoenix T. November 25, 2018

Extraordinary and thought provoking film. Similar to Arrival.

Extraordinary and thought provoking film. Similar to Arrival.
Adult Written byDad of the Decade April 28, 2021

Challenging fever dream, not remotely appropriate for non-adults

This is a brilliantly mind-bending trip of a movie for the right adults. It is cerebral, almost psychedelic film that will appeal more to fans of sci-fi literat... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byMovie-Critic January 5, 2020

Amazing and well done movie! but very gory.

This movie has amazing cinematography and is very well made with good actors. It has a lot of cool scenes, but there are some very gory scenes and some sex. A... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byBobideybob August 5, 2018
one of the worst movies i have ever seen. Not for kids, not because of violence or sex or stuff, but because it is really boring and slow, i had high expectati... Continue reading

What's the story?

In ANNIHILATION, biologist Lena (Natalie Portman) is mourning the loss of her soldier husband, Kane (Oscar Isaac). Then he suddenly shows up, extremely disoriented and unable to remember anything. But when Lena tries to take him to the hospital, they're intercepted and taken instead to a secret government facility. There, Lena learns about The Shimmer, a mysterious force that has appeared out of nowhere and seems to be expanding. All efforts to enter into it have met with failure; no one has come back alive except Kane. Teaming up with four other women -- Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh), Anya (Gina Rodriguez), Josie (Tessa Thompson), and Cass (Tuva Novotny) -- Lena volunteers to go into the unknown area, hoping to save her husband as well as solve the mystery. But what she finds inside is beyond even her wildest expectations.

Is it any good?

Alex Garland's second directorial outing after the excellent Ex Machina, this brainy, metaphysical sci-fi is even more ambitious and more amazing. But its challenging conclusion could be a hard sell. Based on Jeff VanderMeer's novel, Annihilation slightly resembles Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker (1979), a highly artistic masterpiece from a much braver time, when audiences were less likely to balk at ambiguity. Like Ridley Scott did in Blade Runner 2049, Garland combines unusual, imaginative visuals, ideas, and sounds with more traditional audience-aimed thrills -- but he does so far more seamlessly than Scott. The film is less focused on climactic battles, instead heading toward a far more poetic, surreal ending.

The shape of Annihilation is nothing short of brilliant, with a linear, minimalist starting point that consists of simple, straightforward images (like a lighthouse). It then opens up like a strange, exotic flower, following different offshoots to new, unexpected points in its unpredictable world. The movie is admirable for featuring five women (and no men) as the characters who embark on the journey; Portman's performance especially makes it an emotional one. But given that the movie is sometimes creepy and perhaps even unsettling, it sets itself up as being more of a cult favorite than a mainstream hit -- it's closer to 2001: A Space Odyssey than to Star Wars. Still, if you prefer your sci-fi deep, then you're in for a treat.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Annihilation's violence. How do the scenes with blood and gore compare to the more indescribable, creepy scenes? How did they all affect you? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • Why is it noteworthy that the main characters in this film are mostly women? Are they role models? Why or why not?

  • How does this story compare to other sci-fi movies you've seen? Are some movies based more on ideas than action? Which do you prefer?

  • The film has drawn some criticism for potentially "whitewashing" some of the key roles. Have you heard this term before?

  • Does this movie have an ambiguous ending? What do you think happens?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love sci-fi and adventure

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