Book to Movie Adaptations: Annihilation Review

Annihilation (2018) | ADAPTATION REVIEW

Welcome to the second Culture Mondays post! As we did a podcast last time, I thought we’d go for something completely different today, and talk about a film. I’m not really an expert when it comes to talking about films, so this won’t be like… technical. But hopefully it’ll give you an idea of whether this film is for you! This is also the first of my Adaptations series, where I talk about anything that’s been adapted — probably mostly books to films, but if there’s different types of adaptations I’m happy to cover those too!

Title: Annihilation (2018)
Available on: Netflix (UK).
Rating: 15.

As you might have seen from other social media posts, I recently finished the Southern Reach triology by Jeff VanderMeer. Annihilation is the first book in the trilogy, and the only one that has been made into a movie (and I don’t think there are plans to make any further movies of this series). I actually read the books in the first place because one of my friends had recommended the film to me and bought me the first book for my birthday. As I’d been reading the series, I thought what better time to give the film a go?

If you’re looking for a faithful book to movie adaptation, I have to recommend you go elsewhere. A lot about this book was changed when it was turned into a movie, but I don’t necessarily think this was a bad thing. If you’ve read the book, you’ll remember the characters are referred to be their field of speciality: the biologist, the psychologist etc. This is pretty much gone in the film, and I struggled to remember which character in the film related to which from the book. The fates of some of the characters was also changed, as was the ending (don’t worry, no spoilers!).

The acting in Annihilation was really good, and I especially liked the casting choice for the director/the psychologist. I did wish she got a bit more of a focus (what happened to all the hypnotising from the book??) but as a casting choice, she was perfect. I wasn’t entirely convinced by Natalie Portman as the biologist/Lena, but I think that’s more because I’m too familiar with her face!

Area X as well, wasn’t what I had imagined when I was reading the book. I didn’t envision it as lush as it was in the film, but the lushness certainly added to the visual experience. The flower fields (if you’ve seen the film you’ll know!) were a particularly gorgeous, stand-out series of shots. The scene with the voice-beast was particularly well-done, and creepy! Obviously reading the book you get a sense of the tension and the disintegration of the minds and resolves of the character, but it was really well shown in the movie as well.

It was gorier than I expected, mostly because it was only rated a 15. There was one scene in particular that was really gory for a 15 in my opinion, though given the book, gore and violence wasn’t unexpected. But it’s an action film, with a lot of violence and gore, and suspense.

One thing I liked about the film compared to the book was the added explanation and resolution! Even having read the full trilogy, I feel like it was never explained what Area X is, or what it does. While the film didn’t really come to a conclusion on what Area X is, or what caused it, there was some kind of explanation as to what it does woven into the film. The film also seemed to have much more of a conclusion than the book, than the entire trilogy even! By having some kind of explanation for the strange things in Area X, it seemed like more of an ending, and I wasn’t left wanting more like I was with the books. The movie does end on a cliffhanger, but it’s not one I would want explaining.

Might be a controversial opinion here, and it’s not one that I usually hold, but given everything I’ve talked about in this adaptations review, I think I have to conclude that this is one of the occasions where the film is better than the book. Even though a lot was changed from the book, I think most of the changes were for the better, and there wasn’t much in the book that I felt like I wanted to see in the film. I felt the film made the narrative easier to follow, and less confusing than the book, and the visual element of the story really added to it, as it almost always does in science fiction.

As an adaptation, I give Annihilation (2018)…

Rating: 4 out of 5.

12 thoughts on “Annihilation (2018) | ADAPTATION REVIEW

    • I’d recommend the film!! It’s still not quite fully explained, but there is a theory the scientists develop while they’re in there!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I have heard a lot of mixed things about the book and movie! I believe that the movie is on my watchlist since it has been released on Netflix but up to now I’ve never been in the mood to watch it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is on Netflix! I’ve also heard mixed things, but I enjoyed both the book and the movie (though didn’t really enjoy the rest of the books in the trilogy oops). It was great to see an all-female sci-fi though!

      Liked by 1 person

    • If you like sci-fi I’d recommend checking it out! But I’d also recommend pretending that Annihilation is a standalone book not the first in a trilogy


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