“They went crazy, or something in here killed them.”
DISCLAIMER: BE WARNED! THIS IS AN IN-DEPTH MOVIE ANALYSIS. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ANALYSIS, IT MEANS YOU HAVE ALREADY SEEN ANNIHILATION, OR YOU LIKE TO SPOIL MOVIES FOR YOURSELF. SHAME ON YOU IF YOU LIKE TO SPOIL MOVIES FOR YOURSELF. IF YOU WANT A REGULAR REVIEW, PLEASE CLICK HERE. THIS DISCLAIMER IS GOING ON FOR WAY TOO LONG. I’M GOING TO END IT NOW. GOODBYE.
Let’s talk about the ending of this crazy, but extremely well made, movie. Before I continue, let me preface this with saying that these are only my opinions and not an absolute version of what you should believe. But if you need a little bit more explanation as to what happened during the ending of Annihilation, please continue reading.
What Happened in the Lighthouse?
So the lighthouse is divided up into 3 parts: Lena’s revelation of Kane’s suicide, the annihilation of Dr. Ventress, and Lena’s fight with her mirror.
- Kane’s Suicide
By seeing what Lena sees on the video camera we now know that the Kane back home is actually a biological duplicate of the real-life Kane. We don’t know what has gone on in Kane’s head. It could be that he is going mad, maybe he is infected with something, or maybe the mirror is forcing him to say this. But seeing that real Kane shows no signs that someone is holding a gun to his head, it’s most likely that Kane has gone insane. We also see that Kane finds something artificial as to the person he was back at home. Basically, he thinks his name means nothing, nor does his career. He thought he was a man, but he isn’t anything. He believes he is just a shell of what he should be. At the end, right before blowing himself up with a phosphorous grenade, he tells his mirror to go and find Lena.
- Annihilation of Dr. Ventress
As to what happens to Dr. Ventress in the lighthouse, it’s not as cut and dry as other elements of the lighthouse sequence. I do believe that Dr. Ventress, in her effort to face what was causing the shimmer, gave herself completely to it, knowing that she would not be coming back. In the end, Dr. Ventress explains these beings’ goal to annihilate all matter on earth and turn it into millions of tiny particles. I’m paraphrasing here, but in essence this is what Dr. Ventress says to Lena in the cave, right before glowing. She herself, then erupts into a bright light and explodes into millions of tiny particles.
- Lena’s battle with her Mirror
When Dr. Ventress morphs into a bright force, the force collects a tiny drop of blood from the bridge of Lena’s nose. This simple act creates Lena’s mirror. Not only does this biological duplicate mirror Lena’s mannerisms, but it also mirror’s her psychology. The struggle between Lena and her mirror is believed to also be a portrayal of the struggle between one’s depression, and or, self-destruction. That the only true person that constantly stands in your way, is you. The failing to stand on your own two feet, or being crushed by your own insecurities. We see constantly the personal mistakes that Lena makes. And in understanding her character, we then understand the struggle between her and her mirror.
Lena escapes the lighthouse
This is the most optimistic, and hopeful, outcome to the movie. It doesn’t need much explanation, but explanation nonetheless. As Lena tries to fight off her mirror, she finally outsmarts it but giving it a phosphorus grenade that Kane had left behind. Lena runs as the mirror is engulfed by the bright light, and Lena escapes the lighthouse. Lena looks on as her mirror, which had started to become her in physical appearance, dissolve before our eyes. As I previously stated, the mirror duplicates both Lena’s mannerisms and her psychology. By doing so, the mirror begins to self-destruct on itself. First, by caressing Kane’s cheek and by touching everything in the lighthouse. As the lighthouse is set ablaze, the real Lena looks on in astonishment as everything around the lighthouse is suddenly destroyed. The scene cuts to Lena in isolation as Lomax talks to her. Lena has escaped from the shimmer, with her mind intact. Kane’s health has now stabilized, and she has survived one of the most biologically messed up places to ever exist. All is good with the world!
When Lena visits Kane, he states that he doesn’t think that he is the real Kane, and we know that he isn’t. But as the two embrace, we see a shimmer in both their eyes. Hold on! Does this mean Lena did not escape? Does this mean that this Lena is not the real Lena?
Lena did not escape The Lighthouse?
The question of whether or not Lena escaped the lighthouse is not as black and white as you may see, and the film doesn’t help much in solidifying a clear cut answer. When reading or watching a movie with a narrator, it’s always good to second guess them. In fact, never, whole-heartedly, trust a narrator. This is the key piece of evidence when stating that Lena did not really leave the lighthouse. See, Lena is our narrator in this film, giving us a moment by moment account of what she saw. But considering she is the sole survivor from the shimmer, can we really trust her? The film says otherwise.
Annihilation hints at several scenes in the film to make you believe that Lena will not be getting any community badges for honesty. First, is one of the more prominent pieces of the film. Lena does not tell the women who her husband is. As the journey becomes too perilous, the other women, besides Dr. Ventress, want to head back. Lena says she can’t, only that it’s closer to the other side now. But the audience knows that she is on a mission to find out what happened to Kane in order to save him. This whole story eventually escalates when Thorensen gags the ladies and threatens to kill them. As Thorensen stands before Lena, she says, “Lena, is a liar,” as she holds up Lena’s locket. Thorensen then goes on to say, “we’re just supposed to take Lena and Ventress at their word?” Thus, hinting at Lena’s concealment of the truth. Second, a cut scene leads us back to the affair between Lena and a fellow professor, Daniel. An affair is dishonest. Need I say more?
So can we trust Lena? If Lena’s reputation proceeds her, it’s more likely your answer would be no. Going back to Lena as our narrator, this version of the story is only what Lena wants us to know. Therefore, Lena could have easily lied to us about the mirror not being able to escape. We don’t see everything that goes on in the lighthouse. During the fight with her mirror, the screen goes black. Could there have been an exchange, or were we intentionally not shown something? Maybe the real Lena was left in the lighthouse to burn, which would then give way for mirror Lena and mirror Kane to continue the work of annihilation from a different point.
Annihilation did not give us any firm answers. And when looking hard at what happened, I couldn’t get past a few moments that linger in my mind. So here are some questions that plague me, and will continue to plague me. Should you have an explanation, no matter how strange, let me know.
So first, let’s talk about Kane’s strange illness. He comes back full alien. Then he says he doesn’t feel very well. Then his organs begin to shut down. However, once Lena comes back, he’s all better, but still alien. In my opinion, shouldn’t it have been opposite? Shouldn’t he have been strong as long as the shimmer was strong. Then once the shimmer was destroyed, he would start to get sick? Maybe, in the end, Lena was able to cure him.
Second, let’s talk about Dr. Ventress. She has so many versions of who she is, the more I look at her the more I find out. One question that puzzled me was her lack of assistance towards her colleagues. When the women were attacked, whether it was Sheppard getting attacked by the bear, or Thorensen getting attacked by the bear, or Radek getting attacked by the alligator, Ventress never helped. She’s always shown stoic in the corner as the other ladies help. Is this because Ventress only cares about herself? Is it that she wants more than anything to see the shimmer and doesn’t want to risk her life for these ladies who are constantly standing in her way? Or maybe she’s too weak from the cancer, and can’t emit that much energy and still have enough energy to finish the journey?
Now that we have both sides of the aisle summed up, what ending are you going to believe? We could believe that Lena is a pathological liar and nothing that comes out of her mouth is true. Basically, we should take every word she says with a grain of salt. So by telling ourselves this, that means Lena’s version of events may be heavily skewed.
But one could also argue that the real Lena did escape, because why would Lena’s mirror purposefully destroy the source for which these “aliens” plan to annihilate and recreate every single thing on this earth? The shimmer in both Kane and Lena’s eyes could also be a representation of them both having come out of the shimmer alive. Whether they are both the mirrors, or even if just one of them is the mirror. That substance of the shimmer is still them.
I was inclined to look at this from the trippy twist of an ending. What if Lena lied about everything? But up until the point of the ending, I don’t believe she would have lied about anything. I believe that she had good reason to keep the truth about her husband away from her colleagues. As for the affair, well, that was part of her self-destructive tendencies. Not only that, but her personality after returning from the shimmer was rather normal. As for Kane, his personality was strange from the start, even when answering the simplest questions.
I believe that the shimmer in Lena’s eyes is only there due to the changing of her cells by being exposed to whatever biology was in the shimmer. But who knows… What do you believe?