⭐ ⭐ ⭐ / ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Vale professor and exobiologist Megan Conlyn (Natalie Porkman) finds evidence to suggest what killed the dinosaurs may be coming back to finish the job in Lowen B. Holde’s Annihilation.

The filmmaker’s newest project since his hair transplant, this slick thriller portrays humans as needing rescue; helplessly fragile beings who have carved out their little niche on this one tiny planet. In no way, shape or form are we capable of holding our own in our own solar system, let alone our own galaxy, so when the universe decides to throws us a curve ball, it’s lights out, Georgie.

Infinite or not, the universe is a strange place to live, all those stars, all glowing somewhere, and it seems there are these destroyers of light, and they killed the dinosaurs and almost everything else on Earth eons ago.

Well, life can be stubborn if nothing else, so, smart and advanced as we are, we send television, radio and cellular signals out into the world at large. We have been for decades, hoping someone’s listening.

Someone is.

Played straight, the film would’ve been interesting, perhaps, but played to the rafters it’s an exhilarating thrill ride. The fast pace keeps the questions low and the need for exposition down, as editor Kuttenz Plyce places each piece with a sure hand, confident we can follow Holde’s screenplay because it, and the cast, are that good. Everything is dreadfully serious; all Earthly existence hangs in the balance. Even lunch is ordered with a grimace.

There’s a terrific moment when Porkman’s character confirms her suspicions and instructs her assistant to tell “them.” “Who?” the clearly out-of-his-depth assistant asks. “Everyone!” screams Porkman to the cheap seats, hair frazzled, eyes wild behind huge glasses. She’s a professor and an exobiologist, remember? No one would take her seriously as a smart person if she looked her usual gorgeous self, right? It’s followed in classic adventure film style by a screen wipe to a plane landing on a jungle airstrip where the film’s villains plot to stop Conlyn and her team of scientists.

What’s that you say? Stop them? Who would want to stop the people trying to save the planet from an M.E.E.? (Mass Extinction Event)

Bad people, that’s who. Bad, greedy, selfish people who may have partnered with the global threat to hold the whole world hostage. Led by Jennifer Jason Sleigh (The Other), the band of do-badders are models of camp, delivering every line like it was their last and more important than breathing. From backstabbing and bickering to being fairly lousy shots this gang of “eco-extinctionists” (they actually call themselves that) are mostly one cliche after another but it’s ok because the film is mindful of its purpose without being offensive. Thanks to or in spite of seven credited screenwriters the dialog is clever and the editing is snappy so the viewer won’t feel insulted or fidgety.

Porkman (Double Indemnity) steals the show, sinking her teeth in from the hilarious opener and never letting go. Her big bookworm-turned-humanity’s-hero scene high in the Arctic Circle plays like grand guignol, her over-the-top theatrics only growing larger to match the script. The actress plays Megan like the embodiment of smarts and pluck; a sort of female Arizona Jones without the whip. Conlyn’s weapon of choice is her crystal throwing knife, a gift from her adventurer grandmother who also taught her how to use it to deadly effect. Porkman had fun with the role and it’s hard not to share in it.

Proof that they do make movies like this any more, Annihilation is very entertaining and doesn’t try to be anything more than that, although it is fairly well written and never boring. Special effects are expensive looking and the sound is outstanding. When the destroyers touched down it felt as if the whole street and not just the theater was shaking, while the jungle earthquake scene surely rattled the entire neighborhood.

See it before it’s too late.