An excerpt from my script review for Annihilation which will be available 02/26/18:
2.) Plot Stability
Keeping your audience guessing throughout the entire script and/or film is a crucial portion of your job as a writer.
This story got me to the end where I had no clue what was going on. That’s good.
Kane mysteriously shows up in he and Lena’s bedroom doorway after missing for 12 months? Interesting.
He’s spaced out and deathly ill? Very interesting.
En route to the hospital, and their ambulance is suddenly stopped by nondescript government SUVs and sedans? Holy shit! Something’s amiss…
And then Lena goes into this mysterious “shimmer” where she and her team find altered alligators, bears, dear, and a topiary of people?!
This 127 page script read quickly!
Similar to Lena, I drawn to that lighthouse for the explanation, but this brings us to the major issue with the script…
Be able to explain why your ending happened.
The act of annihilation on its own, does not a motivation make.
What was this alien humanoid? No clue.
Why did it come to Earth? Annihilation, which by itself is the most generic “bad guy” schemes of all time aside from perhaps global domination.
(Which could be argued that this being wanted to do, since it was just altering life forms, not really eliminating all of them.)
Pull shit like this, and your audience won’t leave happy. The reason doesn’t have to be practical, or even make realistic sense, but it needs to be plausible.
The whole ending where this alien cilia being mimic fights Lena? Silly.
Why was this shimmer “refracting” DNA? Messing with radio and light waves I can believe, but isn’t our DNA internally ‘programmed’?
How could a mutated bear be imprinted with Sheppard’s last words and thoughts? (Aside from the writer needing it as a plot device…)
Why did some humans become distorted, while others simply assumed the identity of another team member?
Shit like that frustrates us because we need payoffs by the time you write fade out.
It’s not “clever” if you, the writer, are as clueless on what happened as we are.
The author, whether Garland or his predecessor, painted himself in a corner by making things more and more outlandish, which isn’t a bad thing unless left all by itself.
So focused on delivering interesting plot points were they that the endgame wasn’t truly considered, and in the case of the script at least, it was glossed over with some mediocre fight scene and a potential doppelganger.
Remember to balance keeping us on the edge of our seats with a clear destination in mind for your finale. The more each plot point and set piece supports that ending’s explanation the better!
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