annihilation sequels

Alex Garland‘s Annihilation is now playing in theaters. While the film is adapted from the first in trilogy of books by author Jeff VanderMeer, it’s highly unlikely we’ll ever see Annihilation film sequels. Let’s dive into the Annihilation book sequels, Authority and Acceptance, and explain why.

southern reach trilogy

The Annihilation Sequels We’ll Never See On Screen

Annihilation is the first in a trilogy of books – The Southern Reach Trilogy. Authority and Acceptance continue, and conclude, the story, providing some answers while also creating entirely new questions. It’s an altogether thrilling series, filled with elements of science fiction, espionage, horror and psychological drama.

Alex Garland’s Annihilation adapts the first book in the series, and, as has been pointed out several times before, makes some pretty big changes. Low box office has all but killed any hope of an Annihilation sequel, but even before the film hit theaters, Garland had said he wasn’t particularly interested in a sequel. His Annihilation is (mostly) a self-contained story, and the film’s conclusion doesn’t leave much room for the events of Authority and Acceptance to unfold on screen.

If you have yet to read The Southern Reach Trilogy, and are curious about what two Annihilation sequels might entail, I’ve broken down the key events of the next two books. Again, it’s highly unlikely we’ll ever see these books adapted for the big screen. Spoilers follow.

Authority Annihilation


While Annihilation is told entirely in the first-person by the Biologist (played by Natalie Portman in the film), the second book, Authority, is told in the second person and features a new main character. That character is Control, aka John Rodriguez. Annihilation plays out as a sci-fi tale set entirely in the wilderness, while Authority transforms the narrative into something akin to a spy novel. Control works for the mysterious CIA-like organization known as Central, and he’s recently been appointed the new director of the Southern Reach – the government-backed organization investigating Area X.

As Control attempts to take command of the Southern Reach, he butts heads with assistant director Grace Stevenson, who is still loyal to the former director – who vanished during an expedition into Area X and is now presumed dead. Control also finds himself drawn to the Biologist, who suddenly re-appeared near her home. The Biologist insists that she’s actually not the Biologist, but a clone created by Area X. She calls herself Ghost Bird. Ghost Bird is being held at the Southern Reach, and through a series of interviews, Control begins to empathize with her.

Through all of this, we learn more about Control. He was previously in charge of a mission that went terribly wrong, and cost a woman her life. He has an uncomfortable relationship with his mother and his grandfather, who are also both government spies. Like the characters in Annihilation (the book, that is; not the movie), Control is also being hypnotized to do things against his will. Eventually, the Area X border begins to expand even further, things turn chaotic, and Control and the Biologist’s clone Ghost Bird escape through a portal in a pool back into Area X.

Of the two Annihilation sequels, Authority is the book that could easily be turned into a film following the events of the first movie. While the Annihilation film adaptation essentially destroys Area X (aka The Shimmer) at the end, it’s already established that a possibly-cloned biologist has returned to the Southern Reach. It would be quite simple to bring in the new character of Control and have him interview Portman’s character. The film could even have Area X/The Shimmer appear again at the very end, leading into a third and final film. None of this will happen, of course, but it could.

acceptance annihilation


While Authority could easily be worked into a sequel to Alex Garland’s Annihilation, the task of adapting third and final book in the series, Acceptance, would be a lot more difficult.

Acceptance jumps back and forth in time. A large chunk of the book is set in the past, before Area X has formed and swallowed up a large portion of the land. In this section, we learn the story of Saul Evans, a lighthouse keeper. The lighthouse was featured in the Annihilation film adaptation, but there was no reference to the lighthouse keeper character. In the Annihilation book, it is established that the lighthouse keeper eventually turned into a monster that the Biologist calls the Crawler. The Annihilation film doesn’t feature any of this.

The Acceptance flashback sequences with Saul establish his life as a lighthouse keeper, and his relationship with his boyfriend Charlie. Saul’s idyllic life is frequently interrupted by Henry and Suzanne, two members of the Séance & Science Brigade, a shady organization affiliated with the Southern Reach. Saul also develops a friendship with a local nine year-old girl named Gloria. Gloria, we learn, will grow-up to become the Psychologist character from Annihilation (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh in the film). Soon, weird anomalies begin to unfold – anomalies that will lead to the creation of Area X, and transform Saul into the deformed creature known as the Crawler.

Acceptance also retells several events from Annihilation from the point-of-view of the Psychologist, aka Gloria. We learn that the Psychologist had terminal cancer – something that is briefly mentioned in the Annihilation film adaptation – and that she wanted to lead the expedition into Area X to hopefully find Saul. Or what was left of him.

The rest of Acceptance continues the story of Control and the Biologist’s clone, Ghost Bird. While traveling through Area X, the two encounter Grace, the former assistant director of the Southern Reach. They learn from Grace that time moves much faster there than in the outside world. While they’ve technically only been traveling a few weeks, three years have already passed. 

Control, Ghost Bird and Grace track down the original Biologist, who has now transformed into a giant creature made up of thousands of eyes (it’s weird, folks). They also encounter the Crawler. Control is touched by the Crawler, and soon after becomes deathly ill. The book concludes with Grace and Ghost Bird continuing to travel, discovering that Area X has expanded even further, swallowing the Southern Reach. There’s a prevailing sense that Area X has now swallowed up the entire world, and there’s no escape from it.

Turning Acceptance into a film following the Annihilation movie would be no easy feat. Some creative heavy lifting could, of course, find a way to make all of this work. But it would seem so vastly different from Alex Garland’s Annihilation that it would leave audiences scratching their heads (something several people who’ve seen Annihilation are already doing).

For now, we should remain content with the Annihilation movie and the Southern Reach Trilogy remaining their own entirely separate entities. We may never get any Annihilation sequels on film, but the books will always be there to present new sides of the story.

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