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Headscratchers / Annihilation (2018)

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Warning: Headscratchers pages are for post-viewing discussions and will have spoilers unmarked. You have been warned!

  • A meteorite big enough to have a visible tail during daylight crashes into a lighthouse, in close distance to a small community. Somehow, nobody noticed. How is this even possible? How it didn't cause any noticable seismic pattern? And how the hell the lighthouse didn't simply collapse after being hit by something so big, instead having a hole cut right through it?
    • And if we assume the human-shaped plants represent snapshot image of humans staring into the falling meteor (think dummy dolls set up to recreate a scene) made by the phenomena later, then nobody really investigated the crash site, until the Shimmer itself became visible around the lighthouse and a custodian was sent to investigate.
  • The Humanoid seems to be better off as is than trying to mimic a human being. Considering it is extremely tough, strong, no need for food or water since it has no mouth, can teleport AND no sense of self harm before wanting to mimic a human. Yet when "Kane" came back to Lena's house, it retained the teleporting aspect but, "he" started bleeding out from the mouth and dying. Why bother with choosing a more flawed organism to copy? Why not try to EVOLVE said organism and THEN try to copy it? I liked the movie by the way.
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    • The movie implies (and the characters come to this conclusion as well) that the being doesn't want anything and it may not even be intelligent. It act and it mirrors, but it doesn't seem to do so with any particular design or intent, which is evidenced by all the mutations throughout the shimmer; things just mash together. Sometimes they're beautiful and sometimes they're arguably better hunters or what have you but just as often they're worse off or just generally out there. They even explicitly say it in the movie: things aren't necessarily getting better or worse, they're just becoming different. Also, at the end, the alien Kane doesn't seem to have a motivation or a mission. He's just there. So I don't think the alien presence thought either way about being better off as is or not. All it could do was what it did, and its ambiguous whether or not it was even doing it on purpose.
      • Thank you. Man this film makes you think nonstop.
  • After killing the alligator, they examine its teeth and conclude that it's "just like the flowers" - in what way? That it can mimic animal and plant species? The only unusual thing they actually tell us about its teeth is that they're in concentric rows, which is abnormal for gators.
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    • That's actually pretty straightforward: right before that they found plants with flowers growing off the same stems that looked like they came from entirely different species - all the DNA inside the Shimmer is getting scrambled, mixed and matched between different species. The alligator's teeth were arranged in concentric rows, like a shark. They also sort of implied that, like the flowers, its individual teeth didn't match normal alligator morphology. It didn't "mimic" anything - it affects plants and animals.
      • To elaborate a little more on this point: Flora and fauna in the Shimmer are undergoing genetic mutations that should be impossible. Lena, herself a biologist, is baffled by how this is happening, since these types of changes shouldn't be able to happen on a single organism. The "just like the flowers" line is implying that the alligator's tooth mutation was acquired after its birth, since the major point of contention with the flowers is that it appears like multiple species are growing from the same root structure, or in other words, the same organism. This phenomenon is later explained as the Shimmer being an enormous prism that refracts not only light, but genetic structures. The shots of cell mitosis with the new ones having a phosphorescent shimmer are meant to demonstrate that literally every time a new cell is created within a single organism, the Shimmer is altering its DNA. The real problem I have with this is that it doesn't seem plausible that all the cells within an organism would acquire mutations that move it toward a singular cohesive trait, considering each new cell is indicated to get a new edit. Perhaps this is actually an explanation for why the population of living fauna seems so sparse: The odds of developing cell mutations that actually allow an organism to live are exceedingly slim.
  • What the hell happened to the soldier that Kane vivisected in the apocalyptic log? We see his heavily mutated corpse later. At first it looked like parasitic worms were inside him - did his intestines literally turn into some kind of live eels attached to his body?
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    • Could be, but whether it's parasitic infection or his guts transforming really doesn't matter. Both are signs that reality is unwinding inside Area X.
  • Are the humanoid plants actually mutated people? When they looked at them up close they even said that they were just regular plants, rooted, but that grew into humanoid shapes.
    • I don't think they're meant to be mutated people, just plants that grew into human form because they got some human DNA, uh, "refracted" into them.
    • Given that the "trees" on the beach seem to be made of quartz crystals (and so are likely made from the sand), this seems to be a pattern: rocks imitating plants, plants imitating people. If they were originally humans, it's hard to see where they came from. The original inhabitants of the house where the plant people were found would have been evacuated by the government long before the Shimmer got there, and it doesn't seem like a whole scout team would be turned all at once, in the same area, not leaving any of their equipment behind. So they're probably "just" plants. With the exception of one recent addition (Josie).
    • There is another explaination. Since whatever that was in that meteor works like a prism, it reflects everything. Including images. So it "saw" humans standing in those spots when it hit the lighthouse and then just created the image of that. So think about those human-shaped plants as if they were some sort of still image or a snapshot of the moment the thing from meteor "saw" them.
      • Or maybe they're all people from previous missions who, like Josie, gave up the will to live. It is implied she'd rather take her life rather than fall victim to the Shimmer, before she wanders off and disappears into the garden of people.
  • What happened to Josie?
    • She wandered off-screen and probably became one of those plant people.
  • Why would a group of scientists walk into the shimmer without wearing any protective gear or hazmat suits, especially when nobody they’ve sent in has come back? The interviewers are all protected when talking to Lena, but they never thought to wear those going IN?
    • The suits that the doctors were wearing while talking to Lena require an air supply; either a hose connected to an external tank, or a scuba-like tank, which would limit any exploration to the shimmer to a few hours / limited number of feet from an air supply. Even things that don't require an air supply (MOPP gear such as chemical-impermeable clothing and a gas mask) still is not meant for round the clock use over the course of two weeks, the planned duration of the mission.
  • How is it possible that none of the other recon squads came back from beyond the Shimmer? Both squads we see last at least a week. The protagonist's squad goes a couple days before they're even confronted with an actual threat. Just send a squad in for about a day or so and they should be able to get back no problem.
    • Maybe its flawed storytelling. I would imagine that they probably tried just physically tying people to a rope, then pulling them out after they got in. They wouldn't actually get any usable data this way, so I think they're just generalizing.
    • I remember that once Lena's team enter the shimmer, they then wake up and realize they've actually been there three days even though none of them have any memory beyond just entering. Maybe the shimmer does something to people's minds and they lose track of time and reality as soon as they enter. Then, even if they want to turn back or if they're only supposed to go for a short-term mission, they're already too deep in.
    • I think this is actually the film's intended reason for the crews not making it out of the shimmer. But, this is one time where something like a daily journal with handwritten notes would have been incredibly useful.
      • The book contains handwritten journals as part of the plot. They weren’t useful, either.
      • Why weren't they useful in the book?
      • The various writers quickly began suffering from dementia and the like, much like in the film, and would record gibberish or otherwise unreliable accounts. This is a big part of the book in fact, we're not even sure how reliable the narrator is
  • Why do they send the expeditions into the Area X on foot, instead of just flying them? I am sure there is be a stated reason for that in the movie, but I must have missed it.
    • Ventress mentions they tried sending drones, approaching from the sea, using satellites, and most of these things you might be thinking of. But no one came back. The land route is a swamp, so it's not good for pretty much any type of vehicles. So pretty much, at this point, why bother wasting budget on more vehicles when they've done nothing so far?
    • One thing fewer that might fail. They don't even know if electronic equipment or combustion engines work inside the Shimmer.
    • Combustion engines should work since chemical propellant guns work and chemical fuel lights work. Batteries work too.
      • But the people on the outside don't know that, as nobody returned to pass that knowledge. They are armed "just in cause", rather "we are 100% sure your gun will be useful".
  • Why aren't the following easier countermeasures taken for the benefit of future explorers, beside tying ropes to people and pulling them back after a while:
    • Paving roads with concrete signs in areas known to be consumed by the shimmer, or making immobile landmarks;
    • setting fires to see what kind of fauna escapes;
    • passing X-rays and lasers to see whether they get refracted?
    • And the inevitable: Is there a plan to nuke the place?
      • There is also the fact the preparation for each group amounts to nothing. They aren't even handled paper maps of the terrain nor are debriefed about it, while everyone is aware electronics are expected to be unreliable or stop working inside. And to bring it further, nobody apparently entered the Shimmer with the simple mission of "get 10 meters inside, set up equipment, get back".
  • How exactly did that bear sneak up on the group without anyone noticing it? It's right in front of Shepherd before it grabs her and drags her away kicking and screaming. How would such a large animal get the drop on somebody without making any noise?
    • The "bear" is shown as clearly more intelligent, more aggressive and just plain weird when compared with any species of bear. A normal bear, as long as doesn't make grunting noises nor calls, can effectively sneak or at least get very close. This one is "hunting", so it first sneaks, then mimics the voice and gets a drop on Anya the moment she gets out of the building. It is never made clear if the "bear" is calling for help, because it understands what does it mean, or simply because that's what Shepard was screaming while being torn apart. So if it helps, try to imagine it repeating random words in high-pitched voice of a valley girl talking about hot boys.
  • What do you suppose happened to the mutated life forms after the Shimmer was destroyed?
    • If what happened to the rest of the weird phenomena at the end is anything to go by, they probably got incinerated by the mass-refracted White Phosphorous grenade just like everything else. Going on the assumption that they were sufficiently mutated by the Shimmer to be "connected" to it through the multicoloured vampiric techno-nebula-humanoid-thingy in the lighthouse.
  • Was that the Shimmer copy taking on Ventress' form at the end? When we first see her (it?) the face looks mutated. And shortly after, the lower half of the face appears normal, but the eyes are covered by skin. That's what the Lena copy looked like while forming, too.
    • Follow up: maybe the Shimmer clone tried to "bond" with other people, but for some reason or another, it didn't work. Like Lena said, Ventress never planned on coming back, but Lena did. So maybe that mentality somehow distorted the clone's ability to fully function as a copy.
  • What was the significance of Lena arriving at a building (inside the shimmer) that is an exact replica of her house (this one.)?
    • That now even Lena’s mind is being reflected and refracted by the bizarre power of the Shimmer. Even her thoughts aren’t safe.
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