After years of serving as the screenwriter on several critically-acclaimed films (including, 28 Days Later, Never Let Me Go, and Dredd, among others), Alex Garland made his feature-length directorial debut with Ex Machina. The sci-fi drama/thriller, based on Garland’s original screen story, was a critical darling in its own right – raising expectations all the higher for Garland’s next film, Annihilation.
Annihilation is based on the 2014 sci-fi novel of the same name by Jeff VanderMeer (itself, the first installment in the Southern Reach book trilogy) and follows the latest of several expeditions to a mysterious (and dangerous) region long cut off from the rest of the world, known as Area X. Garland’s Annihilation film adaptation, which he wrote in addition to directing, boasts an impressive main cast that includes Oscar-winner Natalie Portman (Black Swan) amongst its ranks, as well as Tessa Thompson (Creed), Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight), and Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin) – plus Ex Machina costar Oscar Isaac in a key supporting role.
Thompson and Rodriguez in particular have posted multiple images from the Annihilation set to their Instagram accounts throughout production, as has cinematographer Robert Hardy (who also worked on Ex Machina). The Film Stage has collected several of these photos together from the past several weeks – and if these images are any indication, Annihilation (which is being filmed partly on location in South Forest, Windsor Great Park in England) ought to be just as visually-striking as Ex Machina.
As more proof of that: Hardy posted an image from Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979 sci-fi film Stalker (a beautifully-shot movie that brings to mind Annihilation with regard to its narrative premise and setting) to his Instagram account, noting that it is the only movie in his “research library” for his current project – and that, like Tarkovsky’s film, Annihilation tells an enigmatic tale about “a metaphysical journey into an area where the laws of nature do not apply.”
The Annihilation source material is a thematically-layered work of science-fiction (with more than a dash of existential horror mixed in) and could make for something special, in the hands of the crew responsible for Ex Machina – to mention nothing of the film’s cast, which is composed of celebrated character actors and/or promising up and comers. Annihilation doesn’t have the makings of a mainstream success, so to speak, but for those who have enjoyed how Garland’s previous work draws inspiration from the Stanley Kubrick and Andrei Tarkovsky school of sci-fi filmmaking – this is one movie worth keeping an eye out for.
On that note, we leave you with a synopsis for Annihilation‘s source material (from its Amazon page):
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 is expected to arrive in theaters in 2017. We’ll let you know when an official release date is set.