Annihilation: Movie Theaters, Netflix, Female Empowerment, and Audience Attention Spans
Originally, this was supposed to be just a review for the brilliant, modern masterpiece that is Annihilation. However, the more I try to adequately explain my thoughts on the movie, the less interested I become in explaining what I acquired from this movie than talking about what Hollywood did not acquire from it and what audiences simply ignored. The movie itself is brilliant, with David Cronenberg-style body horror, yet strangely mixed with a visual stimulus that was oddly beautiful. Annihilation feels like a movie from another era. One where audiences (American at least) appreciated this kind of thought-provoking, intelligent, creative cinema. It’s a movie that should be on a streaming service here in North America, and in cinemas in Europe and East Asia, where they probably appreciate this more, and the movie would be a box office hit. Yet for some bizarre reason, Paramount Pictures decided to do the inverse, and now the movie bombed this past month!
For all the talk this past Oscar season of how women are important, women are the greatest thing to ever happen, and how it is now the time of the woman, now women demand more roles than ever, here it is! Here’s Annihilation, served on a silver platter, and none of the Hollywood elite talked about it! I doubt they even cared enough to know it existed! This brilliant movie where the cast is almost entirely female! The main 5 women include an Israeli Jewish lady, (Natalie Portman) an older, over-50 year old woman (Jennifer Jason Leigh), an African-American lady (Tessa Thompson), and a Latina lesbian (Gina Rodriguez)! Yet no one in Hollywood championed this movie! I barely saw any advertisements!
Annihilation itself should have been released on Netflix here in America, and in cinemas the world over, because unfortunately, American audiences have a very low-attention span now. My own theater experience regarding Annihilation included a person a few rows down who had their phone on constantly, with the light occasionally blinding me from watching the actual movie! Their phone rang once or twice as well. A few seats to my right was someone, also with their phone out, chatting it up with their companion and laughing at… something. The real kicker, both of these phone-lovers… were women! Here’s a movie celebrating womanhood, and in the theater, two women could not be bothered to turn off their cellular device. Gotta keep on the Facebook and Twitter updates! I guess the moral of the story is women, just like men, can be rude, disrespectful, inattentive, and cannot unglue themselves from their phones for two seconds. The cinema-going experience is just great, right ladies and gentlemen?
It was this experience that finally made me say, “I will not be sad to see movie theaters gone.” Obviously multiplexes aren’t going away, not for a long time anyways, but someday, it feels like the only movies in the theater will be blockbusters and other schlock, because they’re the only things that make teenagers look up from their phones anymore and not give a 0/10 to something for “boring, no action”.
As for small, independent and/or arthouse theaters, gladly keep those, Keep those places where I and only a few other people my own age, sit in a nice, quiet theater with mostly elderly people to watch a “boring” movie that requires brain activity and staying off the internet for a few hours. Or better yet, go to Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, or whatever other service with real movies and other kinds that studios are too scared to greenlight anymore. I can just watch in the comfort of my own home, lay down on the couch or bed, just relax, and actually enjoy the movie without so many distractions. Admittedly however, these streaming services need to be careful, especially Netflix, which is greenlighting everything, but I will not be surprised if someday the multiplexes are just owned by movie studios in the future and we see them as a place to go only to stuff our faces with popcorn and sneak in pizzas, nachos, tacos, burgers, and the like. Sound impossible? So did a movie studio effectively buying another one until a few months ago.
The reason this movie is on Netflix everywhere but the US, Canada, and China is that a Paramount executive saw the movie as “too intellectual” and demanded reshoots. Director Alex Garland refused, and the movie’s producer, Scott Rudin, who had final cut authority, sided with Garland, refusing to reshoot the ending. I commend Garland and Rudin for this, maintaining this masterpiece as is. However, it is difficult to argue with that Paramount exec as far as American audiences are concerned. Paramount just was not smart enough to realize this would be a hit in Europe, where I’ve heard people clamor for it the past few weeks. I implore you, readers in the part of the world that are not American, Canadian, or Chinese. Please, please watch Annihilation! You will not regret it! It is out on Netflix for you today! Please shower this movie in the attention and acclaim it so desperately deserves!