The last time you saw a group of women wearing cargo jumpsuits while carrying giant backpacks in a movie was in 2016's Ghostbusters. That may be where the similarities between the Melissa McCarthy comedy and the new film Annihilation (casting: Francine Maisler) end, though, because while Ghostbusters probably made you laugh until you cried, Annihilation is so scary you might be brought to tears. Natalie Portman, Gina Rodriguez, Tuva Novotny, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Tessa Thompson play a team of scientists who venture into a strange territory called Area X in the movie, which hits theaters on Feb. 23. What makes it so scary is the fact that Area X is mostly unexplored territory, and it's known for causing the disappearances of the people who enter it.
From just the trailer alone, you can tell that Area X has an elusive and mysterious nature. Surrounded by a rainbow-colored translucent veil called "the shimmer," the space that the scientists go to explore hosts terrifying creatures unlike anything you've seen before. At times, it feels like you're watching one of your nightmares come to life. With its phantasmagoric scenery and its fictional hybrids of predators like an alligator with shark's teeth, it's mind-bending sci-fi at its finest. And that's especially because it features a diverse group of women as the fearless scientists making groundbreaking discoveries.
Not only does Annihilation's featuring of female scientists make the movie exceptionally cool, the plot in general turns a tired narrative on its patriarchal head. The reason why Natalie Portman's Lena decides to venture into Area X is because her husband (played by Oscar Isaac) suffered damaging effects from the mystifying territory. He returned ill and unconscious, and Lena decides to go to the place where her husband was harmed to figure out what happened to him. All the while, her husband sleeps on a hospital table, and it feels like a much-needed sci-fi version of Sleeping Beauty in which the woman finally gets to save her true love.
Portman's character doesn't go it alone, though, and her team of scientists includes an anthropologist (Novotny), a paramedic (Rodriguez), a physicist (Thompson), and a psychologist (Jason Leigh). Together, the women risk their lives to discover what causes Area X to be so sinister. It may look pretty at times, but the unfamiliar beasts threaten to kill the team of women, and it makes for a thrilling — and often terrifying — viewing experience.
If you're unsure if you can handle Annihilation, you might want to check out the book version first, as the movie is based on the first novel in author Jeff VanderMee's Southern Reach trilogy. Don't get too excited by the spoilers that the book may or may not provide, though, because Annihilation's writer and director, Alex Garland — who also created Ex Machina — has said that the movie is only loosely based on the book. "I took a really weird approach to the adaptation," Garland told Yahoo. "I thought, I’m not going to re-read the book; I’m going to adapt it like a dream of the book."
While watching the movie, you will probably get the sense that you're watching someone's dream. As you well know, dreams can quickly go from being pleasant to terrifying in a fraction of the time it takes to actually fall asleep. That's exactly the same with Annihilation. One second you'll find yourself beaming over the inspiring team of female scientists being brave bad asses, and the next second you'll be cowering in your seat because some unknown beast appeared out of nowhere.
If you get too freaked out while watching Annihilation, just channel Rodriguez and Thompson's characters to help you breathe through the fear. You will find plenty of inspiration from the movie's empowered female characters as they're even more entrancing than the optical-illusions that permeate through Area X.