“Annihilation” (Paramount)

Natalie Portman stars in a scene from the movie "Annihilation." The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. (CNS/Paramount)

By Catholic News Service

After her husband (Oscar Isaac) returns as the lone survivor of a secret Army mission and falls mysteriously and critically ill, a soldier-turned-biologist (Natalie Portman) volunteers to join an expedition into the remote area he and his team had been dispatched to explore, which is being affected by an unexplained and ever-growing atmospheric phenomenon. There she and the other researchers (Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson and Tuva Novotny) on the trek discover bizarre animal and plant mutations by turns beautiful and terrifying.

Writer-director Alex Garland’s blend of sci-fi and horror, adapted from the first in a trilogy of novels by Jeff VanderMeer, starts off promisingly, its understated tone and matter-of-fact dialogue ratcheting up audience dread. But the payoff fizzles. Along the way, a couple of blood-soaked scenes, though brief, put this off limits for most.

Fleeting but extreme gore, semi-graphic adulterous sexual activity, scenes of marital intimacy, partial upper nudity, references to lesbianism, at least one use of profanity and a milder oath, several rough and crude terms. The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

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