Writer-director Alex Garland says he has no interest in making a sequel to Annihilation, his critically praised 2018 sci-fi horror film starring Natalie Portman. After establishing his sci-fi credentials tackling writing duties on films from Sunshine to Never Let Me Go to Dredd, Garland made the leap to directing with Ex Machina, the 2014 film starring Alicia Vikander as an android who develops sentience.
After the success of Ex Machina, Garland next tackled Annihilation, an adaptation of the Jeff VanderMeer novel about a group of female scientist-soldiers entering a forbidden zone and encountering a deadly alien threat. Though critics raved about Annihilation's combination of sci-fi horror, character drama and philosophy, audiences failed to embrace the film and it grossed only $42 million domestically. Many overseas viewers never got to see the film in theaters at all, after Paramount cut an international distribution deal with Netflix.
Despite the movie's low box office returns, there has been discussion about Annihilation receiving a sequel, as VanderMeer actually wrote an entire trilogy of books. For his part though, Garland has no interest in revisiting the property and insists he has completely moved on. Speaking to IndieWire ahead of the film's Blu-ray release, Garland said he has no problem with someone else tackling an Annihilation sequel. But he himself will have no involvement.
"When the thing is done, I am done with it. I instantly start moving on, so I don’t even have an opinion on an Annihilation sequel. All the way through I was clear with everyone, from the studio to the cast, I told everyone that I didn’t really see it as part of a franchise. My goal was to make this film and do the best job I can. I didn’t even conceptualize it as the start of a trilogy. Sequels are just not something I’m interested in doing. It’s like when you don’t like steak, you don’t make the decision not to eat steak, you just don’t eat steak. I just don’t do sequels.”
Garland speaks of not liking sequels generally, but it's also true that his experience on Annihilation was specifically unpleasant. Not only did Garland clash with Paramount over the movie's story, after it was deemed "too intellectual" by execs, he also expressed displeasure with the Netflix distribution deal. It's true the film contains certain"intellectual" elements, including an ending that sounds echoes of Kubrick's 2001 with its psychedelic imagery, but it also boasts many traditional sci-fi horror elements of the type that have thrilled audiences since at least the days of Ridley Scott's original Alien. It's arguable that with better marketing, Annihilation could have broken through with domestic audiences who enjoy a good alien scare movie.
But even with a bigger U.S. viewership, the film's chances of becoming an overseas hit fell apart when Paramount decided to off-load it onto Netflix rather than risk a legitimate release. In light of the battles Garland had to fight with Paramount over the movie's content and distribution, it's no surprise that the already sequel-averse filmmaker wants nothing to do with a potential revisit. After the film's under-performance, a sequel frankly seems like a very remote possibility even if there are two more books to adapt.
Having now moved on from Annihilation, Garland has lined up a pair of new projects: the tech-world series series Devs set up at FX, and the CGI/live-action fantasy The Toymaker's Secret going forward at TriStar with Paloma Baeza set to direct from Garland's script.