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Here’s Why You Should be Excited for Alex Garland’s ‘Annihilation’

Alex Garland’s follow-up to 2015’s ‘Ex Machina’ sounds amazing.
By  · Published on May 31st, 2017

Alex Garland’s follow-up to 2015’s ‘Ex Machina’ sounds amazing.

Alex Garland‘s feature directorial debut, the thoughtful sci-fi thriller Ex Machina, brought stand-out performances from its three co-stars Oscar Isaac, Domnhall Gleeson, and Alicia Vikander. However, the film also set up Garland as one of the most promising and exciting filmmakers.

Whilst the director has had previous work in film — for example as the screenwriter of 2010’s Never Let Me Go and the Danny Boyle-directed The Beach (2000) — Garland’s film writing work remained under the radar, despite his work with Danny Boyle on The Beach and 2002’s 28 Days Later, which remains exciting and refreshing, even over 15 years after each films’ release. Garland’s previous scriptwriting work is enough alone to be excited about his newest film, Annihilation.

An adaptation of  Jeff VanderMeer’s novel of the same name, Annihilation is a sci-fi thriller that follows a biologist on the search for her missing husband, leading her to an environmental disaster zone. With an extremely talented cast that includes Gina Rodriguez (as Anya Thorenson), Natalie Portman as the biologist, and Oscar Isaac returning to Garland’s world with his role as Portman’s husband, the cast alone are reason enough to be excited.

Pair this cast with Garland’s return to a genre he is clearly a master of and it becomes clear the film is set to be another unique experience into the world Garland creates through his enigmatic scripts and observant direction.

With VanderMeer’s recent comments after seeing an early cut of the film, it seems viewers don’t have to worry about expectations being let down.

On The Ringer’s The Watch podcast, VanderMeer described the film’s “surreal” and “mind-blowing” elements. The author described the adaptation process, saying that while he was kept in the “loop,” he ultimately had no say over the film.

Interestingly, VanderMeer also brought up auteurism and Garland’s disbelief in the term. At an NFTS Masterclass Garland fronted, the filmmaker said the “Auteur theory is bullshit,” going on to expand by noting Alfred Hitchcock and Wes Anderson are auteurs in terms of style, but auteur theory suggests it’s the director doing the work whereas, for Garland, film is a collaborative process. VanderMeer, meanwhile, says: “The first thing I realized is that even though Alex Garland says he’s not an auteur, he is an auteur.” With only one previous film, and eight screenplays, to compare Annihilation to, this a bold statement, suggesting Garland’s restrained style and curious tone carries through to his latest film.

Of the film itself, VanderMeer said in a Facebook post: “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.” Expanding on this on “The Watch” podcast, VanderMeer compared the film with his original novel, noting that the film is “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.”

With influences ranging from Kubrick’s 2001  to Tarkovsky’s Stalker, you can expect Annihilation to live up to its anticipation. Unfortunately, you will have to be anticipating Garland’s next film for a while, with Paramount Pictures set to release the film in 2018.

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Freelance writer based in the UK.