Annihilation director Alex Garland has admitted he’s disappointed with the film’s Netflix distribution deal. Annihilation is based on the first book in a trilogy from author Jeff VanderMeer, and the story involves an all-female research team heading into an environmental disaster zone labelled Area X. Inside they find all sorts of strange creatures and plant mutations, and their sanity slowly begins to crumble the deeper they investigate.
Natalie Portman will play the lead for the film version, and while writer/director Alex Garland (Ex Machina) changed some key story details, by all accounts Annihilation will retain the novel’s dreamy, psychological structure. Apparently, this became an issue behind the scenes, with producer David Ellison fearing the movie was “too intellectual” for mainstream audiences. Once Ellison’s suggestions of changing the ending and making Portman’s character more likeable were overruled, Paramount instead struck a deal with Netflix; the film would get a theatrical release in the U.S., Canada and China, but be released straight to Netflix everywhere else 17 days later.
Needless to say, this strange arrangement has raised eyebrows, and now in a new interview with Collider Garland has weighed in on the deal.
Disappointment really. We made the film for cinema. I’ve got no problem with the small screen at all. The best genre piece I’ve seen in a long time was The Handmaid’s Tale, so I think there’s incredible potential within that context, but if you’re doing that – you make it for that [medium] and you think of it in those terms. Look… it is what it is. The film is getting a theatrical release in the States, which I’m really pleased about. One of the big pluses of Netflix is that it goes out to a lot of people and you don’t have that strange opening weekend thing where you’re wondering if anyone is going to turn up and then if they don’t, it vanishes from cinema screens in two weeks. So it’s got pluses and minuses, but from my point of view and the collective of the people who made it – [it was made] to be seen on a big screen.
While Garland is being diplomatic about the situation, he’s clearly a little saddened by the move. The trailers for Annihilation display the film’s amazing visuals and epic scope, so it’s a shame most audiences won’t get a chance to experience it on a big screen. It’s also disappointing to hear that the studio thinks the film is too smart for general audiences.
Perhaps they got cold feet over the idea of pushing a cerebral, slow-moving science fiction thriller that apparently models itself heavily on director Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker – which admittedly doesn’t sound like a recipe for box office gold. Still, Annihilation reminds highly anticipated, and will hopefully find an appreciative audience when it arrives in 2018.
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