The science fiction film Annihilation directed by Alex Garland and starring Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, and Oscar Isaac has left many viewers confused. The movie, released in 2018, is based on the novel of the same name by Jeff VanderMeer and explores themes of identity, self-destruction, and metamorphosis. The perplexing ending has left many with lingering questions. This article will explore the ending of Annihilation in terms of its surreal elements as well as delve into how it reflects on our own psyche and reality.
Please note that this article contains major spoilers for the movie “Annihilation.”
“Annihilation” concludes with Lena (Natalie Portman) destroying the Shimmer, an extraterrestrial force of nature that causes significant alterations to the environment and organisms, by tricking its alien entity into holding a phosphorus grenade. However, the Shimmer’s effects persist in Lena and her husband Kane’s doppelgängers, signifying a continuous transformation, and leading to interpretations about identity, self-destruction, and our relationship with the unknown.
The Shimmer and Area X
To understand the ending of Annihilation, it’s essential to first comprehend the nature of the Shimmer and Area X. The Shimmer is a mysterious, ever-expanding electromagnetic field that has engulfed a region called Area X. The Shimmer’s origin is an extraterrestrial meteor that crashed into a lighthouse, causing significant alterations to the environment and the organisms within it. The US government establishes the Southern Reach facility to study and contain the Shimmer, but several expeditions into Area X have ended in disaster, with no one returning, except for Lena’s (Natalie Portman) husband, Kane (Oscar Isaac).
The Climactic Scene: Lena’s Confrontation with the Alien Entity
As Lena reaches the lighthouse, she discovers a camera recording left by Kane, revealing that he had encountered a doppelgänger created by the Shimmer, which led him to self-destruct with a phosphorus grenade. Lena then descends into a cavern beneath the lighthouse, where she confronts an alien entity that takes the form of a humanoid being.
This entity initially appears featureless, but it eventually mirrors Lena’s appearance, movements, and mannerisms, creating a surreal and unsettling confrontation. The alien, being a product of the Shimmer, represents a force of nature that does not have any clear motives or intentions. Instead, it’s an embodiment of change and adaptation, mimicking and absorbing anything it encounters.
Lena’s Decision: Destroying the Shimmer
Understanding the danger posed by the Shimmer’s unchecked expansion, Lena makes a decision to destroy it. She uses a phosphorus grenade, similar to the one used by Kane, and tricks the alien entity into holding it as it detonates. As the entity is engulfed in flames, the fire spreads throughout the Shimmer, causing it to collapse and seemingly dissipate.
The Reunion: Lena and Kane’s Doppelgängers
In the aftermath, Lena returns to the Southern Reach facility, where she reunites with Kane’s doppelgänger. Both are physically changed by their exposure to the Shimmer, with Lena having a Shimmer-like glow in her eyes, and Kane’s doppelgänger possessing an otherworldly quality. This implies that the Shimmer’s effects are not entirely eradicated, and Lena and Kane’s doppelgängers may serve as harbingers of future transformations.
Conclusion: The Deeper Meaning Behind Annihilation’s Ending
The ending of Annihilation is open to interpretation, as it raises questions about identity, self-destruction, and the human impulse to understand and control the unknown. Lena’s journey into the Shimmer is a metaphor for self-exploration, and her confrontation with the alien entity represents a struggle with her own darker nature. By choosing to destroy the Shimmer, Lena symbolically embraces change and growth, accepting the uncertainty that comes with it.
Furthermore, the Shimmer can be seen as a force of nature that transcends human understanding. Its apparent goal is not to harm or conquer but to evolve and adapt. This challenges the traditional concept of antagonists in science fiction, pushing the audience to contemplate the true nature of humanity’s relationship with the unknown and our instinct to control or destroy that which we don’t understand.
In conclusion, the ending of Annihilation is a complex and thought-provoking culmination of a visually stunning and psychologically intense journey. By exploring themes of identity, self-destruction, and metamorphosis, the film challenges viewers to confront their own understanding of the world and the limits of human comprehension. It is through this deep dive into the psyche and surrealism that the film leaves a lasting impression, ensuring that the enigmatic conclusion of Annihilation continues to captivate and intrigue audiences for years to come.