What Does The ‘Annihilation’ Ending Mean?


What Does The ‘Annihilation’ Ending Mean?

Annihilation Ending: Spoilers ahead. The world “annihilation” doesn’t just mean destruction. In physics, annihilation is actually a form of creation, as defined by Merriam-Webster: “the combination of a particle and its antiparticle… that results in the subsequent total conversion of the particles into energy.” This definition is crucial when it comes to understanding what the Annihilation ending means. This isn’t to say that there is only one right way to experience the ending of Alex Garland’s new science fiction film. Annihilation is the kind of movie that lends itself to infinite interpretations, and that’s by design. However, before getting into what the Annihilation ending really means, it’s important to know what actually happens.

The last act of Annihilation either answers all of your questions or explains nothing. After embarking on an expedition into the mysterious Shimmer that has changed the ecosystem of its area, biologist Lena (Natalie Portman) finally reaches the end of the journey: the Lighthouse where the Shimmer originated. There, she finally sees the source of the Shimmer, a strange, extra terrestrial like energy that is constantly shifting and changing and turns Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh), the leader of the expedition, into what can only be described as a ball of energy. This ball of energy then becomes a double of Lena, thanks to a strategically absorbed drop of blood, and the two Lenas fight, both desperate to be the one to leave the Lighthouse.

What Does The ‘Annihilation’ Ending Mean?
Like Kane, Ventress has lost herself within The Shimmer, recognizing the deterioration her body and mind, and dubs the spread of the extraterrestrial force, “Annihilation.” Before Lena’s eyes Ventress‘ form comes apart, and we see the energy that remains absorb blood from a cut on the protagonist’s face.

The Shimmer is something different, something extraterrestrial. The story of Annihilation is told non-linearly. We open with a biologist named Lena (Natalie Portman) recounting her infiltration of the Shimmer, as well as her escape.

Annihilation Ending Explained

This theory is backed up by one of the central themes in the original book by Jeff VanderMeer, specifically the importance placed on proper nouns. As reported by Uproxx, VanderMeer’s writing is careful not to name anything — characters, creatures, places, they are all mostly unnamed and unspecified. Though Garland’s adaptation forgoes this detail, the last scene brings the importance of proper nouns to the forefront when Kane and Lena ask each other if they are the real Kane and Lena they were before. They use their specific names, proper nouns, to question each other, calling into question the very nature of what those names actually mean.

Assuming both Lena and Kane are somehow new embodiments of the Shimmer, can they still be called “Lena” and “Kane”? Should they have new names altogether, or are their names something they retain even as they become something new? The ending of Annihilation doesn’t provide answers to these questions. When VanderMeer first saw the film, he described the ending as “mind-blowing” while speaking on The Watch podcast, via Collider, and he’s not wrong. Whatever the ending really means is something every viewer will have to decide for themselves, right after putting their minds back together again.

Annihilation Ending Meaning

In the feverish crescendo of Annihilation’s wordless climax, the name Bobbi Jene crept into my otherwise paralyzed brain. I’m no modern dance buff, and the dancer and choreographer is not someone who would have been on the tip of my tongue if it wasn’t for last year’s ravishing documentary Bobbi Jeneby director Elvira Lind. The film introduced me to Bobbi Jene Smith, and her ability to turn her entire body into a lightning rod of instinct through her charged, emotionally (and sometimes physically) naked choreography, as sensual as it is self-destructive. Watching Natalie Portman stuck in a seemingly inescapable dance with her faceless, iridescent double — watching it turn violent, not out of malice, but because it can’t help but be — called to mind Smith’s controlled throwing of herself across a performance space, the internal passion and turmoil of the self made physical.

I was impressed, then, to see that Smith herself had choreographed that scene — and that perhaps the emotional wallop it delivered wasn’t just my own projection. The face-off occurs at the end of the film’s trek into the Shimmer, a mysterious, probably paranormal zone that is spreading through the Florida swampland in which all manner of biological impossibilities are taking place. Portman’s Lena is a biologist who has volunteered for the expedition after her husband (Oscar Isaac) has come back inexplicably altered from the same mission. Leading the team is Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh,) a psychologist who has been overseeing all previous expeditions from the Southern Reach base camp (none of which, with the exception of Lena’s husband, have ever returned) while, it is later revealed, slowly dying of cancer.

The other three women on the expedition are broken in their own ways — they’ve lost loved ones or struggle with self-harm. Alex Garland’s script brings to the surface the theme of human flailing that was present but less articulated in Jeff VanderMeer’s book. The Shimmer is a psychedelically manifesting cancer on the land (perhaps not accidentally, the American South); the people who are drawn to it recognize something of themselves in the phenomenon. In the novel, it plays out more like the land’s reclamation of itself and its inherent chaos; in the film, it’s a beckoning void that promises some kind of finality that the mundane world can’t. (And you know what they say about the void.) Garland emphasizes that everyone is there by choice; these women are not hapless suckers roped into a documentedly dangerous and insane mission. And sure enough, one by one they are killed by the fearsome mutations that have sprung up in the Shimmer, or, in the case of Tessa Thompson’s Josie, willfully succumb to the genetic weirdness of the environment.


Garland’s film is not about anything so ego-driven as suicide; it’s about self-defeat on a molecular level, an entropy of the self. The cancerous cervical cells Lena shows her biology students in an early scene are metaphors of a sort, but as she points out later, all human cells eventually mutate and break down in the process of aging. The ecosystem of the Shimmer speeds this up, warping the women’s minds and bodies, even their own blood cells. There is a lot of space between what rational humans recognize as fully functional, sentient existence and total destruction, and the Shimmer is basically that in-between space, making each woman unrecognizable to herself in different ways before snuffing them out.

Eventually, Josie, Cass and Anya are dead, and Ventress has gone missing, having charged ahead to the lighthouse. Lena, hollow-cheeked and dead-eyed and just as single-mindedly determined for answers, is not far behind her. She arrives to find the charred remains of a body, a hole in the floor, and a camcorder on a tripod. Playing back the tape, she sees her husband Kane, driven mad by his year in the Shimmer, and a doppelgänger, whom Lena realizes with a shudder is actually the man who came back from the mission and is now in intensive care back on the other side of the border, not her husband. The original Kane explodes himself with a phosphorous grenade; it’s his remains on the floor of the lighthouse. The doppelgänger, we are to assume, makes his way back out of the Shimmer.

Having been given the first concrete evidence that Kane is, in fact, dead (if he wasn’t already fundamentally not her husband in the gruesome disembowelment footage discovered by the team earlier in the film), Lena goes in the hole. At my screening I heard some people sigh in exasperation — why would she do that!? — assuming that Lena is, or ever has in the course of the film, been acting out of self-preservation, self-continuation. In the cavern that the hole leads to, she finds Ventress, whose body has been taken over by the extraterrestrial force that has caused the Shimmer. Ventress’s body explodes into pure light and transforms into an pulsating, hypertechnicolor void, which absorbs a drop of Lena’s blood and births her doppelgänger, a half-formed, shimmery-green body that stands indifferently before her as her mirror image.

Annihilation Ending Reddit

It stares back at her. Eyeless though it may be, and blankly inhuman as it mimics each of her movements—her nods, her stumbles, and even her violence—it nevertheless stares back at her. That ending to Alex Garland’s Annihilation, in which Natalie Portman faces her double, her shimmering duplicate, and seemingly wins yet doesn’t as her eyes swim with a luminous ripple, is by design a difficult, provocative, and defiant conclusion. In an age of straightforward superheroics in which good conquers evil, here is a genre movie that strives for the mystique of 2001 and the ambiguity of any nightmarish art installation that might mirror what the Shimmer does to your body after the guts are cut open.

It is a perversely profound film and one that demands to be unpacked in many a conversation after it’s over. As we examine that troubling conclusion, and what it means in the larger context of a biologist trapped inside of an ecological and genetic blender, we must take a step back and consider what the movie Annihilation is really about. On the surface, it reflects many of the kind of John Carpenter-esque ‘80s sci-fi thrillers that probably inspired Garland in his youth. However, the film digs deeper than its premise about a woman entering an inexplicable bubble to save her husband’s life. In fact, the film is really about two mysteries: What is the Shimmer, and why would someone dare enter it? To understand the former, we must first consider the latter.

One of the most appealing aspects of Annihilation is that it follows five women, and scientists at that, who are entering a highly dangerous area out of a sense of intense curiosity. Rather than trying to rescue or kill anything particular within the Shimmer—a rainbow-colored blob engulfing Southeastern American marshland—their quest is one of knowledge and basic understanding of the unknown. They’re the wildly optimistic team of nerds you send in after all the Hicks’ and space marines never came back from LV-426. Yet there is more to their inquiry than simply a thirst for knowledge. Even Natalie Portman’s heroine, Lena, and her wish to save the life of her husband Kane (Oscar Isaac) is deceptively simple.

As the conflict is framed via flashback from the perspective of a seemingly lone survivor, Lena is out to figure out what is ailing her inexplicably alive husband. The couple’s relationship is revealed via flashbacks-within-flashbacks, which initially suggest a deeply romantic marriage. In other words, she seems desperately relieved to have her great love back in her life when he inexplicably appears in their home 12 months after vanishing into the Shimmer.

Annihilation Movie Ending Explained

Loosely adapted from Jeff VanderMeer’s supposedly unfilmable 2014 novel – the first of his Southern Reach Trilogy – the film’s premise actually starts off relatively simple. Biologist soldier Lena (Natalie Portman) is mourning the disappearance of her military husband, Kane (Oscar Isaac), who has been missing in action for a year. Without any satisfying explanation, Kane suddenly returns home, but it’s evident that something has changed him – he doesn’t remember anything about his mission, he looks incredibly pale and promptly starts coughing up blood.

He’s been inside the “Shimmer” – a mesmerising, dome-shaped membrane that is constantly expanding over a swampland region of southern Florida. Everything inside the bubble’s walls is ominously classified as “Area X”, as if to signify some form of of extra-terrestrial involvement. To find out what has happened to her husband and discover the cause of this strange phenomenon, Lena decides to enter the quarantined zone herself.So from what I got from it the movie is making a point about our human nature. We started out from a single cell, a singularly, and from there continued to evolve and change. The scientists (and Lena) go through this progression backwards: the walk into a world that is in constant evolution, and as Lena approaches the lighthouse everything begins to become one—then she finds the singularity. It’s almost like the history of the universe in reverse—but this singularity envelops humanity’s nature with it. And the nature it envelopes is our self destructive nature. Dr. V mentions that our self destructive nature is a part of our DNA, and we see how this nature manifests in Lena’s life through her history of cheating on her husband. As the scientists start to near the singularity they start to reflect their self destructive nature—threats to kill each other, the physicist (who we know has been having self destructive thoughts about herself) is willing to become plant-like and lose her original form.

When Lena enters the lighthouse she sees her husband in the video, but this is actually the singularity that took his likeness and his self destructive nature—his willingness to kill himself shows this nature. The husband that is behind the camera is his real self, but constantly mutating like Lena explains earlier in the movie when she says her cells are constantly changing. When she finds Dr. V, Dr. V has given herself up to the singularity. Lena only gave it some of her blood, but it was able to take some of her likeness. Once it touches her it takes her form, including her human nature- self destruction, annihilation.

The next part I’d have to watch again, I can’t tell if the singularity was trying to kill itself or have Lena kill herself. Regardless, the singularity lights on fire and again reflects humanity by destroying. Lena escapes but, like her husband, is changed by entering the shimmer. Her dividing cells were completely changing in likeness, and even though she’s out of the shimmer she’s physically a very different person.