Annihilation ★★½

All these contemporary middlebrow sci fi movies (Arrival, Blade Runner sequel, Interstellar, High Rise, the godawful Passengers) feel like episodes in an anthology show with the same director and I've really stopped expecting much from them. By this standard, Annihilation is ahead of the curve, but nowhere near the few standouts (Under the Skin, Upstream Color). It's way too on the nose with absolutely no mystery or subtlety in the script or how it assimilates its influences (Stalker, the Thing, 2008 Pitchfork music video, Bethesda/Ubisoft video games). It was not unpleasant or boring exactly, but uninspired and unsurprising. Everything like this just ends up feeling like more content that I watch out of a sense of obligation and vague hope that I'll be proven wrong.
Minor suspension of disbelief point that really bugged me: There is no way in hell the US government could keep this secret for a week, let alone years.
(If I remember Ex Machina correctly, Garland demonstrated an ability to direct dramatic scenes between human actors. I don't have strong feelings about dramatic realism one way or the other, but that was totally absent from this film. What happened?)
If you want to see a really great and visually astonishing (and thorny and willfully obnoxious) descendant of Stalker, watch Hard to Be a God.

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