I’ve been watching a lot of lists of great Science Fiction films on YouTube lately and one of the titles that came up routinely was Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker. While I was listening to a lot of these reviewers’ gush, I couldn’t help noticing how much it reminded me of a trailer I’d seen for a film called Annihilation. When you hear about films with concepts that similar, such as individuals entering a different zone of reality, that means you have a theme for a week’s double feature.

Wednesday Double Feature - Into the Zone - Andrei Tarkovsy's Stalker

So, starting with Tarkovsky’s Stalker, we are told about a strange zone that appeared out of nowhere after an alleged meteorite struck the area. In the Zone, the laws of physics are fluid, with things like gravity changing meter by meter. Also, in the middle of the zone, there is a mysterious room that will grant your greatest wish, whether you know what it is or not. Partially because of the dangers of the Zone, but mostly because they don’t want dissidents getting wishes granted, the Government has cordoned off the Zone. Because of that, the only way to get in is to hire the services of an underworld guide called a “stalker”. 

A loose adaptation of the Strugatsky Brothers’ novel Roadside Picnic, If I didn’t know that this film was done in 1979 I would automatically assume it was a metaphor for Chernobyl. Like most of Tarkovsky’s films, this is a beautiful visual poem that is wonderful to watch. He goes back and forth between muted color and gorgeous sepia monotone. The plot is almost secondary to the meditation on human nature. The one downside is it is frequently a challenge to one’s short attention span. So, if you say to yourself it’s just a film about three people walking around the woods, slap yourself.

Wednesday Double Feature - Into the Zone -  Alex Garland's Annihilation

The next film Alex Garland’s Annihilation tells the story of Linda (Natalie Portman) a professor of biology specializing in cancer cells and former soldier who is recruited to be part of an all-woman team to enter a mysterious area known as the Shimmer on after her husband, the only survivor of any of the missions to the Shimmer returns… changed. The Shimmer is slowly expanding and changing things within it. Can our team discover its secrets before they are killed as well?

This was an interesting film with great tension and visuals. It certainly has more to keep our interest in the threats of mutant alligators and bears. (though what creeped me out the most was the human-shaped trees) However, it never talks down and deals with some complex themes. (it only comes off as lightweight when compared to a film by Andrei Tarkovsky) If I have one nitpick, it is I think the film could use about fifteen more minutes to make the breakdown of the team a little more gradual.