Alex Garland’s Annihilation movie adaptation has begun screening for the press and the first wave of reactions to the film are extremely positive. Garland’s second directorial effort after the Oscar-winning Ex Machina, Annihilation is a mashup of science-fiction thriller, mystery, and horror based on the first installment in author Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach novel trilogy. VanderMeer has already praised Garland’s Annihilation for being even “more surreal” than his source material and having what he has referred to as a “mind-blowing” ending – an ending that is likewise drawing praise in the first wave of social media reactions to the film.

In terms of plot, Annihilation revolves around a biologist (Natalie Portman) who sets out to investigate a mysterious environmental disaster area which radiates a strange phenomenon referred to as simply “The Shimmer”. Joining Portman in the film’s cast as the other members of her character’s scientific expedition are Tessa Thompson (Thor: Ragnarok), Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin), Jennifer Jason Leigh (Twin Peaks: The Return), and Tuva Novotny (Borg McEnroe). Ex Machina veteran Oscar Isaac rounds out the ensemble as Portman’s onscreen husband, the character whose own ill-advised trip into “The Shimmer” is what sets the story in motion.

Related: What is Annihilation Really About?

While Annihilation doesn’t open in U.S. theaters until the last week of February, those critics who have already seen it have begun weighing in with their (spoiler-free) thoughts on the film via Twitter and social media. So far, the reactions are universally positive and are heaping praise upon Garland’s directorial approach, as well as the performances from the mostly female main cast, and the aforementioned “mind-blowing” ending. You can read though some of those reactions, below.

Annihilation made waves late last year when it emerged that Paramount would be releasing the film theatrically in the U.S., Canada, and China, but had handed off its release in other international territories to Netflix. The studio did something similar just this week, when it sold the rights to Annihilation‘s fellow sci-fi horror/thriller The Cloverfield Paradox (aka. the third Cloverfield installment) to Netflix for the tidy sum of $50 million. However, the common belief now is that Paramount “dumped” Cloverfield Paradox on Netflix over concerns about the film’s quality, whereas its deal with Netflix for Annihilation was more of a pure business decision motivated by concerns that Garland’s movie is “too cerebral” to achieve crossover appeal.

Based on the first wave of social media reactions, Annihilation is very much cut from the same cloth as Ex Machina and Garland’s previous work as a screenwriter (see 28 Days Later, Never Let Me Go, Dredd), in the best way possible. While that means that Paramount’s decision to pass off some of the global distribution rights to Netflix was probably a smart call from a studio perspective, it also means that filmgoers will get to enjoy Garland’s original vision unencumbered by studio interference or reshoots intended to make it more “accessible”. Between the buzz around Annihilation and the early response to Marvel’s Black Panther, the rest of February is looking pretty dang promising for movies.

MORE: Alex Garland Has ‘Zero Plans’ For Annihilation Sequels

Source: Various (see the above links)

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