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It's inside me now...It's not like us. It's unlike us. I don't know what it wants...or if it wants, but it will grow...until it encompasses everything. Our bodies and our minds will be fragmented into their smallest parts until...not one part remains. Annihilation.
~ Dr. Ventress speaks her last words about what the Shimmer plans to do before he assimilates and destroys her body.
The Shimmer is the main antagonist of the science fiction horror mystery book Annihilation and its 2018 film adaptation. It is a mysterious extraterrestrial entity that arrives on Earth via meteorite and begins scrambling and combining the DNA of everything it touches.
The Shimmer arrived on Earth via meteorite, crashing into a lighthouse by the sea next to a park. The Shimmer began projecting an electromagnetic field around its new home, mutating the plants and animals by mixing their DNA with that of others.
The Shimmer's field soon grew to encapsulate the entire park. The US Government soon took notice of the forcefield and, designating the area surrounded by the electromagnetic field as "Area X", began sending squads of soldiers in to investigate, including one team that included Lena's husband Kane. In the movie, none of these teams return, though in the book, several squads that patrolled only the outer areas of Area X manage to report back and establish the "rules" of the Shimmer.
Eventually, an all-female team comprised of Lena, Dr. Ventress, Anya Thorensen, Josie Radek and Cass Sheppard is sent in to travel to the lighthouse and report back what they found. In the course of their journey there, the team is whittled down until only Lena and Ventress remain (Anya and Cass are both killed by a mutated bear, while Josie chooses to allow herself to be absorbed and transformed into a plant by the Shimmer). After being separated from Dr. Ventress, Lena reaches the lighthouse, where she finds a hole in the bottom part of its wall and a video camera on a tripod set up next to a dead, disintegrated body sitting beside the wall. Looking at the last thing recorded on the video camera, Lena discovers a video where Kane declares that he no longer knows if he still is himself due to the Shimmer scrambling his DNA, revealing that his flesh now moves similar to a liquid. He then ignites a phosphorous grenade and blows himself up before another Kane walks onscreen and turns off the camera.
Shocked by her discovery, Lena ultimately decides to venture down into the hole where she finds a vast, empty chamber where Dr. Ventress, who had now been partially absorbed into the Shimmer, had her DNA warped with and her eyes apparently removed. She announces to Lena that the Shimmer will continue to absorb everything and fragment its genetic structure until it has been obliterated, before being fully assimilated into the Shimmer (dying in the process). The Shimmer then reveals itself to Lena, taking the form of a shapeless, glowing, seemingly cloudy fractal. It intakes a drop of blood from Lena and uses it to create a humanoid entity that mimics Lena. Lena first tries shooting the humanoid, only for her bullets to be absorbed by the entity. She then dashes out of the chamber and back up to the lighthouse, where she finds the humanoid entity waiting for her.
Lena then tries to attack it with brute force, only for the entity to mimic her attack and knock her back. She attempts to run out the lighthouse door, but the entity also runs towards it and pins her up against it, preventing her from opening the door. However, upon realizing that it would mimic everything she did, Lena gives the humanoid a phosphorous grenade and causes it to inherit her suicidal urges before causing it to activate the grenade and set itself aflame. As Lena runs out of and away from the lighthouse, the entity stumbles around the lighthouse, causing the area around it to burn before finding itself back down the hole and in the Shimmer's underground chamber, which it sets on fire as well. The fire spreads across all of its creations, causing them to burn and disintegrating the force-field around the beach and the park, thus destroying the Shimmer once and for all.
The Shimmer is the epitome of a truly alien being, whose true form, if it has one at all never being seen, the closest to it being a swirling cloud of matter from which ethereal light glows.
The Shimmer projects a field wherever it goes, anything and everything organic within this field being mutated on the genetic level, resulting in creatures that display the characteristics, behavior, and appearance of others. Two noteworthy examples are that of a bear that had the ability to mimic the voices of humans, and a massive albino alligator that had the teeth of a shark.
The Shimmer can also shapeshift, for after absorbing a drop of blood from Lena, it transformed into a green, featureless humanoid that imitated her actions, eventually turning into an identical copy of her. These copies seem to genuinely believe they are who they are imitating, but at the same time seem to be aware of their origin, for when Lena asks the Kane Doppelganger if he really is her husband after learning what he is, he replies, "I don't think so."
The Shimmer is a being without an apparent will, as its goal is only to propagate itself across the universe and assimilate everything into it. In addition to being able to mix DNA and mutate things, the Shimmer is also capable of creating near-perfect clones of sapient beings that inherit all of the original's DNA, personality, and memories, as Kane experienced.
The Shimmer is based heavily upon the Colour out of Space by H.P Lovecraft. In this short story, a small farming village is landing point of a meteorite containing an alien entity known simply as The Colour who has the ability to warp and mutate all living things around it.
The Shimmer is similar to the Thing, being an entity capable of copying and impersonating the DNA of any being it comes into contact with.
The Shimmer is also similar to the Flood from the Halo franchise, as they both appear to share the goal of assimilating every living being into themselves.
When its true form is revealed, the Shimmer slightly resembles a MandelbulbFractal (and even Void Termina's Core). Their deaths are even similar yet different: The Shimmer's death occurs when its construct stumbles into the chamber Lena found it in and burns its chamber after it catches fire from a phosphorous grenade, and Void Termina is scorched by a laser and also goes down in flames. However, Void Termina's Core explodes, but the Shimmer's death is more of an implosion.
The Shimmer's chamber also slightly resembles a Mandelbulb Fractal.
Before it accidentally destroys it creations, the Shimmer's construct looks back and does not even resist against Lena's escape. This may be of two reasons:
One reason is that it was redeemed and therefore actually destroyed the Shimmer's creations on purpose.
Another more likely reason, is that it was angry but knew that it and the Shimmer have had their fate sealed.