How Annihilation Relies on Metaphor to Make Meaning

The survey team from Annihilation.
The survey team from Annihilation.
Image: Paramount Pictures

How do complicated, ambiguous stories work? What role does literal interpretation play in a story laced in metaphor? They’re good questions to ask, and especially good questions to ask about io9-favorite Alex Garland’s Annihilation.


In a video essay about the very topic, Folding Ideas, aka Dan Olson, dives into the questions with gusto and critical clarity, exploring the limitations of literal plot readings in a story like this. It’s a topic that intersects with a lot of modern online film criticism, which is obsessed with “solving” films that are meant to be felt, and interpreted, as much as they are to be understood.

Olson’s work is smart and fun, and his videos are worth checking out if you need a good think this weekend. And let me know how you interpret Annihilation. I feel like trauma isn’t the only way of looking at that metaphor, particularly in the novel. Sound off!

io9 Weekend Editor. Videogame writer at other places. Queer nerd girl.

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Executor Elassus

This should not be a favorite movie. Any film where the director didn’t bother re-reading the book and just wrote a script “inspired” by the story is going to fall far short of the mark, but this one was especially egregious for giving up all the mystery that made the book interesting, and dropping/leaving untold a bunch of stuff the story needed in order to make sense as anything other than a superficial warmed-over doomed-expedition trope.