One of last year’s biggest success stories in independent cinema was clearly Alex Garland‘s sci-fi thriller Ex Machina. Not only was it A24’s highest-grossing feature yet (and a surprise Oscar winner), it featured the talents of three rising stars at the top of their game, as well as writer-turned-director who kicked off his career behind the camera in quite a promising fashion. As one might expect, it’s taken no time for him to gather support for his next feature, an adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer‘s novel Annihilation, and it looks like he’ll be reteaming with one of his Ex Machina stars.
Natalie Portman, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson and Jennifer Jason Leigh are already on board in the four main roles, featuring a group of women who embark on dangerous, secret expedition where the laws of nature don’t apply. The author of the book now updates that Oscar Isaac has joined the ensemble. With the main quartet taking the roles of an anthropologist, a surveyor, a psychologist (Leigh), and a biologist (Portman), the author confirms he’ll play the late husband of the biologist, who is featured in flashback-esque journals.
As we await more details for the film kicking off production shortly in London, check out the Amazon synopsis below, along with a 10-minute video essay exploring the differences between human and machine in Garland’s debut.
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.