After crafting one of the more impressive sci-fi films of the last few years with his directorial debut Ex Machina, Alex Garland is thankfully staying in the genre for his follow-up Annihilation, an adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer‘s first book in the Southern Reach trilogy. While we recently got the unfortunate news it won’t get a release until 2018 from Paramount, a few more details have arrived following a handful of behind-the-scenes images.
Starring Natalie Portman, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Oscar Isaac, and David Gyasi, the film features a group of women — an anthropologist, a surveyor, a psychologist, and a biologist — who embark on a dangerous, secret expedition where the laws of nature don’t apply. VanderMeer stopped by The Watch podcast to discuss a bit about the adaptation process and his initial thoughts following a test screening.
“The first thing I realized is that even though Alex Garland says he’s not an auteur, he is an auteur,” the author says. “So my expectation was to not have anything to do with the movie and that’s the actual fact. He wrote the script and he was kind enough to keep me in the loop during every part of the process, but that wasn’t for me to put my two cents in, basically. It was just so I would know what was going on.”
Speaking to actually seeing the film, he adds, “It’s actually more surreal than the novel. There are a couple places where I was like, ‘I might need an anchor here.’ The ending is so mind-blowing and in some ways different from the book that it seems to be the kind of ending that, like 2001 or something like that, people will be talking about around the watercooler for years.” He wraps up by saying, “Visually, it’s amazing. I must say that and that’s all I probably should say.” That’s not all he had to say, however, because he also chimed in on Facebook with the following:
I’m not really sure what I’m allowed to say about it or not say about it, so I’ll keep it simple…I’m still composing my thoughts and feelings about it. I can tell you it’s mind-blowing, surreal, extremely beautiful, extremely horrific, and it was so tense that our bodies felt sore and beat-up afterwards.
The first book had more of an open ending with a bit of resolution, and there certainly wasn’t a huge twist, so we’ll have to wait and see what Garland has cooked up. Considering the cast he’s assembled and his main influence being Andrei Tarkovsky’s newly restored sci-fi classic Stalker, it can’t get here soon enough.
As we await the first trailer, check out the Amazon synopsis below and the podcast episode above.
Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; the second expedition ended in mass suicide, the third expedition in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another. The members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within weeks, all had died of cancer. In Annihilation, the first volume of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, we join the twelfth expedition.
The group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain, record all observations of their surroundings and of one anotioner, and, above all, avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.
They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers–they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding–but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another that change everything.
Annihilation will open on February 23, 2018.