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Brief Synopsis:
A moderate edit that keeps the central themes intact but presents them in a less heavy-handed fashion. Some action sequences have been re-cut, FX shots tweaked, and bad/expository dialogue is kept to a minimum, with some scenes rescored to help create a more consistently ethereal atmosphere. Some tweaks for pacing have been made, but the nonlinear structure is retained. One flash forward is cut, another is incorporated as a voice-over, and most are trimmed. The lighthouse finale is left untouched. The 5.1 surround track is preserved and I have also put together an isolated score track.
ANNIHILATION is just the sort of inventive and original filmmaking that I love to see, so it frustrated me to witness so much potential wasted due to bad dialogue and poor scoring choices (among other things). I knew what I wanted to change the moment I saw the film, but it’s taken me years to sit down and get it done.

The main thematic thrust of ANNIHILATION is fantastic. The problem is that it doesn’t trust its audience. The last 20 minutes are a wonderfully creative visual display of what’s being communicated, but until that point, we are explicitly told everything, and virtually nothing is implied. There isn’t an ounce of subtlety to the themes or the character arcs. Additionally, while there is much to admire in the FX work, some of it just doesn’t hold up very well, and it seemed to me that small adjustments could make all the difference.

Lastly, I felt that the constant use of acoustic guitar in the soundtrack grounded the film too much when it was meant to be selling something otherworldly. It took me out whenever we had a montage and this moderately melancholy, mostly pleasant, piece of music came into play. Swapping this out was something that I felt had to be done, and would also help the pacing if the sonic ambiance was more consistent. The use of Crosby, Stills and Nash equally bothered me, but this was much more tricky to remove. So instead I removed one instance and then tried to convey it as diegetic the rest of the time. Since it is just a part of the character’s environment, it provokes a different emotional response in the viewer.
Additional Notes:
The default audio track is lossy AC3, but if your tech can decode it, there is also a lossless FLAC track. The isolated score track is an accurate representation of most of my rescored portions and an approximate rebuild of some of the original score using the official soundtrack and by isolating parts of channels in the surround mix. There is one small portion towards the end where there is a little bit of ambient bleed from the FX, but otherwise the entire track is clean score. In some cases where the pieces are cut short on the film, I let them play out on the isolated track.
Other Sources: FX
Official soundtrack
Special Thanks:
- To friends and family for proofing my drafts.
- To Seacom for final preview and feedback.
Release Information:
Special Features
- Surround sound
- Isolated score
- Subtitles
- Trailer
Editing Details:
This edit involved re-scoring, grading, frame manipulation and various other forms of processing to achieve the desired result.
Cuts and Additions:

-The CSN song, 'Hopelessly Hoping', doesn't score the film but remains diegetic. Lena's grieving montage is rescored with the title theme.

-No acoustic guitar is used once we enter the shimmer. Scenes have been re-scored so that the atmosphere remains ethereal and otherworldly.

-The reveal that Lena is having an affair is delayed until later in the film. When it is revealed it is shown visually only, and we do not have an extended scene of dialogue explaining the situation.

-Most flashforwards are trimmed. One is reworked entirely and merged with a travel montage, with added visuals to emphasise themes. The last flashforward is cut entirely.

-Ventress is less ambivalent during her introduction.

-Anya's quirky introduction is toned down. The rest of the team's introduction is trimmed.

-Anya becomes subtly unhinged rather than laughably psychotic.

-Characters don't explicitly feed us information in unrealistic ways. We can figure some things out for ourselves.

-Various tweaks made for pacing and to improve how characters come across.

-Weak CGI is either cut, trimmed or tweaked. Eg. the alligator blood is less brashly red; the bear is more often kept in shadow. The dual-deer is reduced to a brief shot during a re-worked montage.

-The entire lighthouse sequence is untouched.



0:00:00 - Added source warning
0:00:23 - Blended FE logo with Paramount logo
0:00:44 - Added TSM branding
0:02:49 - Marginal sharpening applied to FX shot
0:03:00 - Tweaked title to reflect title of edit
0:05:28-6:28 - Rescored audio. Foley replacement. The title theme now plays instead of CSN (which remains diegetic in the following scene).
0:06:57 - In the theatrical cut the CSN track begins to act as a score to the scene and increases in volume. It now remains diegetic at a consistent volume level with adjustments to reflect room acoustics. The reverb tail no longer carries into the following scene.
0:10:38-11:27 - Ambulance scene features some very minor trims to aid the sense of urgency. The scene is partially rescored (with the same piece of music) to aid cuts. Nothing much can be done about Portman's weak performance here, but she now only cries out 'let him go' once before getting knocked out.

Numerous changes to Ventress' introduction, showing her to be a little less ambivalent and uncaring. I get that it's part of her character, but it verges on caricature. The dialogue plays out mostly the same, but paced slightly differently. Shots have been moved around and cut so that we see less of her looking away and examining her nails:

0:13:58 - Instead of a shot of Ventress turning around, we cut to a shot of Lena.
0:14:01 - Alternate shot of Lena through the window.
0:14:05 - Ventress no longer coldly says 'it's not easy to move on'.
0:14:07 - Shot of Ventress turning around moved to here. Partially redubbed with a different line of dialogue. This and the following shot of Lena through the window are used in order to avoid shot of Ventress looking at her nails.
0:14:17 - shot cropped to focus on Ventress' face and avoid her playing with her nails.
0:14:28 - shot trimmed so that Ventress remains eye contact and we don't see her glance at her nails again.

0:19:44 - The original bedroom flashback shows good chemistry but overstays its welcome and gets abruptly horny. Here it now cuts away a little sooner.
0:20:06 - Several lines are cut from Anya and Lena's first meeting to hide some awkward delivery. The conversation is now more to the point and Anya introduces herself right after confirming that she's not intruding.
0:21:20 - Most of the initial meeting with the other team members is similarly awkward. More of it has been retained than I would like, but some introduction to the characters is needed. A couple of lines are cut and rearranged so that Lena brings up the shimmer sooner. Sheppard replies with what was originally her response to 'Under what circumstances?'; her line 'we are headed that way' now leads straight into Anya saying '6 days and counting'.
0:25:21 - The flash forward here is significantly trimmed. Now after 'that was a brave choice', Lena says 'I owed him, so I went in' and we move on. In the original scene, Lena says "I owed him" twice; here I pair the first delivery with the shot of her saying it for the second time.
0:27:09 - During this first affair flashback, the shot that reveals who Lena is sleeping with is cut. The moans are tweaked slightly to accommodate the change.
0:29:52-30:45 - some audio reworked. Montage rescored with a slightly remixed version of a more ethereal piece from the soundtrack. Now they are in the shimmer, there is no more acoustic guitar.

0:33:25 - cut shot of alligator. We hear the noise it makes.
0:33:27 - Trimmed shot so that it is not clear what the creature is. We just see something slip into the water.
0:33:34 - shot is trimmed for same reason as above and to avoid lingering on the CGI.
0:33:37 - trimmed shot of alligator.
0:33:40 - shots trimmed for pacing and to avoid poor FX shots.
0:33:41 - Very minor colour tweaks and sharpening applied to alligator.
0:33:42 - trimmed above shot of alligator.
0:33:43 - Very minor colour tweaks applied to alligator.
0:33:44 - alligator shot trimmed. Shot of Lena trimmed.
0:33:46 - further trims to shots of alligator.
0:33:47 - trimmed shot and tweaked colour of blood to be less brash.
0:33:47 - trimmed shot of alligator. Shot of Lena firing is shown once, not twice. Cut close shot of alligator. Gunshots do not fade and music does not dominate; they are heard at a reasonable volume side by side.
0:34:02 - cut poor FX shot of alligator dying. The sound of it dying can be heard during the previous shot.

0:34:46 - 35:15 - To aid pacing, the second montage is merged with a trimmed version of the next flash forward. We cut back and forth and the scene acts as an overdub. The sequence is again rescored. Some specifics:

0:34:56 - added shot of cancer cell over the line 'corruptions of form'. This is taken from elsewhere in the film, but the speed and colour grading are different.
0:34:58 - The later occurring scene with the conjoined deer is cut. The FX work is lacking, but it emphasises an important theme. Therefore, a very brief shot from that scene appears here over the line 'duplicates of form'.
0:35:05 - the shot of life in the water is moved from the start of the montage to here. This is to pair with the lines 'dreamlike' and 'sometimes it was beautiful'. The following exchange is also cut: "Is it possible these were hallucinations?" "I wondered that myself, but they were shared among all of us"

0:35:29 - trimmed shot of Sheppard. She no longer smirks and says 'yeah'.
0:36:31 - shot of crew on boat from afar occurs earlier to coincide with the line 'we're all damaged goods'.
0:36:36 - Sheppard no longer explicitly dumps character histories. There is a short pause and then Lena asks about Ventress.
0:36:36 - trimmed the pause before Lena asks about Sheppard.
0:37:04 - Sheppard no longer talks about the person she once was being another bereavement. She simply says what happened to her daughter and Lena says she's sorry. They are then interrupted by Anya.

0:46:33-47:26 - This sequence has been rescored with all sound FX rebuilt.
0:47:27 - Sheppard doesn't say 'hey'. Lena turns when Sheppard says, 'the mystery unravelling?'
0:47:37 - some lines regarding Josie are cut. We skip to Sheppard saying she's just as freaked as Josie is.
0:47:38 - Sheppard no longer says 'yah' in response to Lena checking on Ventress. A jump frame was created by the cut and then fixed with AI.
0:51:25 - tweaked shot of bear attacking Sheppard. There are a few frames without motion blur where the creature is lit in a way that looks artificial. The lighting has been tweaked and motion blur is now across the whole shot. The bear also throws her slightly quicker and lands with slightly more weight.

Trimmed conversation after Ventress leaves to make Anya come across a little less hysterical. She hasn't got the acting capabilities to pull it off, and her madness later in the film comes across much better when she's merely unhinged, as opposed to full blown psychotic:

0:53:18 - Added shot of Lena turning.
0:53:21 - The above allows a lead into 'hold on, we should go back, yes... but-', allowing for some of the lesser theatrics to be skipped ('thanks for the f***ing back up!').
0:53:23 - shot of Anya that was cut from earlier moved here. The shot is reversed to make it look like she was looking at Lena before turning away.
0:53:40 - cut 'like? No, I don't f****ing like!'. We skip straight to 'this isn't some BS tactic to get us to the lighthouse, is it?'
0:54:00 - 'You lied to them' dialogue from flashforward is placed here as a lead into a trimmed version of the scene.
0:54:02 - we skip straight to the dialogue revealing that Ventress has cancer.

0:55:32-56:04 - rescoring and foley.
0:55:55 - Conjoined deer is now absent (part of it is used during the earlier montage). We instead see an extended shot of the bare forest with the sound of trees rustling.

Trimmed Josie's flower speech so as to give the audience some credit. It's not too badly handled for the most part, but after having it spelled out, Anya comes across laughable:

1:00:04 - cut 'hox? what is hox?' and subsequent explanation from Lena. Added shot of Ventress to help keep visual continuity.
1:00:11 - Lena now interrupts Josie's explanation to say that it's not possible.
1:00:21 - Josie simply says 'it refracts everything' and no longer goes on to spell out what 'everything' means.
1:00:24 - Anya now says 'what do you mean?' instead of 'what do you mean all DNA?'. Jump frame created by visual cut, then patched back up with AI.
1:00:26 - Ventress no longer says 'she's talking about our DNA'. She just says 'she's talking about us'.

1:01:46-1:03:03 - Montage sequence rescored and new foley to accommodate.
1:03:03 - Exposition scene regarding affair is entirely cut. Now we just see the same flashback from earlier, except this time we are also shown the face of who Lena is sleeping with. We then cut away to present day.

Changes made to the interrogation to allow for a more subtly unhinged Anya:

1:03:09 - cut Anya saying 'you lying bitch!'. She just points the gun at Lena.
1:03:11 - After Lena asks what's going on, Anya doesn't say 'you don't get to ask the f***ing questions!', she just knocks her out.
1:04:18 - Anya doesn't repeat the theories about what happens to team members in the shimmer. We were already told this earlier and it comes across very clunky. There is an added shot of the group tied to the chairs to cover a visual gap and allow for a brief pause before Anya continues speaking.
1:04:26 - cut Anya saying that theory 1 fits. Cut straight to close shot of Lena.
1:04:59 - Anya doesn't yell at Ventress to 'shut the f*** up' and she only calls Lena a liar once.

Changes made to bear scene to improve presentation of FX. Anya also fires quicker, bear reacts quicker, and Josie reacts quicker when Lena is being mauled:

1:07:43 - trimmed FX shot to avoid weaker lighting.
1:07:54 - trimmed FX shot to avoid weaker movement
1:08:10 - Adjusted lighting and colour on FX shot. Some sharpening.
1:08:14 - slight adjustment to colour and lighting on bear
1:08:17 - cut weaker FX shot. We go straight to Lena's reaction after the bear bites Josie.
1:08:24 - cut Anya taking forever to lift the gun. Also cut shot of bear roaring.
1:08:26 - adjusted lighting on shot of bear roaring.
1:08:27 - shot of Anya shooting is trimmed. The earlier cut close shot of bear roaring is shown first, and then we cut to Anya shooting. Lighting etc. on shot is tweaked.
1:08:46 - shot of bear mauling is trimmed. The original, lengthy segment of mauling that normally follows is cut (weak FX). The shot following that is more or less cut: a handful of frames are retained as they lead well into the shot of Anya having her throat ripped out.
1:08:47 - The lighting on the FX for Anya having her throat ripped out has been tweaked.
1:08:59 - Cut shot of bear mauling Lena. Trimmed following shot of bear mauling. Josie starts firing sooner. Lighting on bear is tweaked and slight motion blur is added.
1:09:01 - Lighting is tweaked on shot of bear getting shot up. Slight motion blur applied. Overall shot is trimmed.
1:09:01 - Shot of bear dying trimmed. Lighting tweaked.

1:11:30 - Cut Josie explaining to the audience how the bear concept works. Added shot of Lena to allow for a natural pause in conversation. Then we see the plants growing in the scars on Josie's wrists.
1:11:48 - Cut Josie explicitly saying what Ventress wants, what Lena wants and what she wants. She just wanders off into the trees without a word and Lena goes after her.
1:12:32 - There is normally a flash forward scene here, followed by a flashback. The former has been cut in its entirety. It doesn't provide the audience with any new or important information and only hinders the pace. We now cut to the flashback and then move on to the lighthouse.

The lighthouse/final act is untouched (cos it kicks ass).

1:38:26 - added mirror effect to visuals and subsequent title.
1:38:50 - added TSM credit.

Example Clip

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Simply put, A+.

I very much dug the original, regardless of it flaws. TSM wonderfully fixed it and I'm digging this so much more. A go-to version. Yet to check out the isolated score. There's the reason to spin it again, and soon.
Owner's reply January 22, 2023

High praise! Thank you for taking the time to review, plissken. So glad you enjoyed it :)

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