annihilation set photos

Some of the best news to come out of this year’s CinemaCon is that Alex Garland‘s new science fiction movie Annihilation looks excellent. However, it was accompanied by some bad news: the adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer‘s novel has been delayed to an unspecified date in 2018. Still, the next film from the director of Ex Machina will surely be worth the wait, especially since VanderMeer himself has seen a cut of the movie and has some very nice (and very intriguing) things to say about it.

For those of you unfamiliar with the novel, Annihilation follows a group of four women (a biologist, an anthropologist, a psychologist, and a surveyor, all unnamed) on an expedition into “Area X.” What is Area X? The book doesn’t offer a concrete answer. It’s a mysterious place cut off from the rest of the world where…well, let’s just say weird stuff tends to happen. This is the 12th expedition and the previous 11 expeditions all had a really bad time. Honestly, saying much more than that would be saying too much, but I will add that things go terribly wrong.

VanderMeer was recently a guest on The Ringer’s The Watch podcast (via The Film Stage), where he spoke about working with Garland. Or rather, he spoke about not working with Garland, as the filmmaker kept him in the loop but wasn’t being precious about the adaptation process:

The first thing I realized is that even though Alex Garland says he’s not an auteur, he is an auteur. 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.

And while the film differs from the novel, VanderMeer seems impressed by what Garland has accomplished:

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… Visually, it’s amazing. I must say that and that’s all I probably should say.

While Annihilation sounds like a straightforward enough movie on paper (an expedition goes wrong in an weird, possibly alien world), the novel feels like a tough nut to crack. It’s deliberately vague, wringing an unsettling tone and tension from what you do not know and what you cannot see. As a book reader, I’m especially curious to see how Garland has re-imagined the ending, especially since VanderMeer compares it to 2001: A Space Odyssey.

VanderMeer also took to Facebook to share his thoughts on the movie and his adjectives will probably please horror and science fiction fans:

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 film stars Natalie PortmanJennifer Jason LeighTessa Thompson, and Gina Rodriguez as the four women on the expedition, with Ex Machina veteran Oscar Isaac playing Portman’s husband in scenes set outside of Area X. The film doesn’t have a release date yet, but let’s go ahead and pencil it in as one of our most anticipated movies of 2018.

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