The intoxicating sci-fi dream movie Annihilation by Alex Garland premiered over the weekend at a modest $ 11 million box office that looks insignificant compared to the impressive numbers of Black Panther, but it is still what Paramount Pictures projected . The film is something difficult to sell to the general public: it is more philosophical than action-oriented, it is clearly strange and idiosyncratic, and it ends in an unfinished moment that suggests some different possibilities without explaining or committing to any of them.
But according to a script report by Slashfilm, Garland's script originally had a more definitive conclusion that suggested a future for the world of Annihilation. That ending seems potentially stronger: it's more specific, more thought-out, and less like a standard family spin of horror movie.
Warning: spoilers ahead for Annihilation.
In the final version of the film, Johns Hopkins military veterinarian and biologist Lena (Natalie Portman) is the last known survivor of the latest research foray into the Shimmer, an area that has gradually been taken over by an incomprehensible alien power. The phenomenon began with a meteor crashing into a lighthouse, and from that point of impact, the Shimmer has gradually spread, creating a refractive area where the DNA reflects and bends over itself, causing duplicates, crosses and echoes of the family life. Plants grow in the form of people, unnatural animals are formed, and people face alien duplicates of themselves. Lena eventually fights against a doppelgänger that reflects all her movements, and she escapes from Shimmer and returns with her husband Kane (Oscar Isaac), the last person to find a way out of the area.
Or she? In the final moments of the film, Kane admits that he does not believe it is the original version, and a video that Lena saw inside the Shimmer seems to confirm that he is an alien doppelgänger. She hugs him anyway, but her eyes shine with a strange light. The suggestion is that maybe she is not the original Lena either; It is also a doppelgänger. That does not match anything Garland puts on the screen about Lena's final showdown with her double. But since everything the audience sees must reflect their verbal report on their experiences, and since she openly lies to her interrogators about those experiences, she may have invented what happened to her in the Shimmer. Or maybe Garland is implying that it does not matter if Lena is the original. As stated earlier, your DNA has been compromised within the Shimmer, and now it carries some of the alien element of the place. Either way, she is not what she was.
But what does that mean, whether for Garland's self-destructive themes or for a world that now has secret aliens wandering around? What, in any case, do the doppelgängers want, and what will they do now that they are here? The original script does not condescend to the public spelling everything: it preserves the mystery of the final version. But it goes beyond. Slashfilm reports that Garland's script leaves the end of the doppelgänger confrontation completely ambiguous: "There is no clear indication of what LENA lived, and what LENA died." And when Lena and Kane embrace in the last moments of the film, behind them, the night the sky fills with new meteorites that fall, one of which separates to reveal a bright light in its nucleus. Why is it a stronger ending? On the one hand, the ending of "Lena … or her?" It feels so familiar in countless modern horror films, from the Final Destination series to Drag Me To Hell in a bunch of films that should not be ruined by association. "He fought and fought and escaped with great effort … except that ha, ha, he did not" is used in so many genre films that it has become a cynical last-minute blow in the audience, an attempt to reinforce adrenaline before the credits arrive. And often leaves viewers with nothing real to cling to a story. If Lena has been lying and doppelgänger Lena killed Lena real, you can not necessarily trust what the public sees on the screen. Which raises the question: why see the story in the first place if it is possible that none of this is real and the real story will never be revealed? What do we learn by seeing a lie if we do not have a reason to give it a form and no truth to compare it with?
And if the end only means that Lena has been compromised, well, what does that imply? Spectators still do not know anything about what it means to be an alien doppelgänger, regardless of whether the Shimmer-doubles have their own intention or agency, whether the threat of the Shimmer has ended or is just beginning. Ambiguous endings can be fabulous. It is daring to walk away and let the viewers want more, and it is often exciting to leave the film feeling as if a movie had activated your imagination and invited your collaboration to the next steps.
But here, the original termination gives speculators more fuel in the form of more information. It still leaves many ambiguous things: are the new meteors falling because an alien intelligence is directing them and, after the test case, the invasion is increasing? Or is it all a galactic accident of some kind? But the original ending is more specific about some things that really matter. He suggests that the story does not end with Lena and Kane, who is about to become much bigger. It implies that the proof of the tendency of the human race towards self-destruction will continue and expand significantly. And although it leaves the future open, it suggests a way for that future. "Lena and Kane are … something? Alienish?" The ending is vague, report and frustrating. The end of the "hail of the meteors" says that the action is just beginning. Garland has already said he has no interest in the sequels, but his original ending suggests innumerable sequels to the mind … and offers viewers many imaginary scenarios to play in the future.