What with the breakneck speed of so many movies these days, I’m always a little hesitant to complain because a film is too slow. But this one creeps along like a grandfather snail. Scenes that ought to breeze by at a normal clip are dragged out twice as long as they should be. There is an interrogation of Natalie Portman, who appears quite traumatized. A question is asked. Long pause. A short answer is given. Another long pause. Another question is asked. An even long pause. No answer. It goes on like that seemingly forever. She is in shock, I get that, I don’t want it to be anything you would describe as snappy, but it shouldn’t be soporific, either. At this early point in the movie I don’t give a damn about her.
That’s one of the big problems. Another is that everything is indistinct, all jumbled up. It gets too confusing, too fast. This group of women (why all women? I didn’t really get that, but who cares) are going into a place called the Shimmer Zone that has popped up somewhere on the Alabama coast. Everyone who has gone in before has not returned. (Gee, count me out, Sergeant!) There are weird creatures and plants that seem to have mutated. They are deadly, and once more the old game of Who Dies Next? And at the end … well, to tell the truth I don’t know what the hell happened at the end. It all just went south and made no sense.
It seems this was based on the first book of The Southern Reach trilogy, by someone named Jeff VanderMeer. I am sorry to say that I just don’t know many of the writers who are writing good stuff today. I’ve never heard of him. I say good stuff because this novel won the Nebula for Best Novel in 2015, and they don’t hand those out in Crackerjack boxes.