One of the most anticipated films currently in the pipeline is absolutely Annihilation. Not only is it the second directorial effort from Ex Machina filmmaker Alex Garland, it’s based on a novel by Jeff Vandermeer that is as haunting as it is compelling—and boy is it compelling. The story follows the expedition of four women who are sent into the mysterious “Area X”, a portion of land in the United States that has been secretly quarantined due to abnormal activity. They are the twelfth expedition sent into Area X on behalf of the mysterious Southern Reach organization. The second expedition ended in mass suicide, the third in a hail of gunfire as the members turned on one another, and the eleventh expedition returned as shells of their former selves, all dying of cancer shortly after coming back.
For the film adaptation, Garland assembled an impeccable ensemble led by Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez, and Oscar Isaac. While we were hoping Annihilation would arrive in theaters sometime this year, Paramount Pictures has announced that it won’t be coming until 2018 for whatever reason. But that doesn’t mean a cut of the movie doesn’t exist, and Vandermeer himself as seen it.
The author was recently a guest on the terrific The Watch podcast, in which Andy Greenwald and Chris Ryan reviewed the book and interviewed Vandermeer about his novel, and he offered some incredibly tantalizing teases about Garland’s adaptation, revealing that the film will (unsurprisingly) have some departures from the book (via The Film Stage):
“The first thing I realized is that even though Alex Garland says he’s not an auteur, he is an auteur. So my expectation was to not have anything to do with the movie and that’s the actual fact. He wrote the script and he was kind enough to keep me in the loop during every part of the process, but that wasn’t for me to put my two cents in, basically. It was just so I would know what was going on.”
As for the film itself, Vandermeer had incredibly high praise that makes me want to see this thing even more:
“It’s actually more surreal than the novel. There are a couple places where I was like, ‘I might need an anchor here.’ The ending is so mind-blowing and in some ways different from the book that it seems to be the kind of ending that, like 2001 or something like that, people will be talking about around the watercooler for years… Visually, it’s amazing. I must say that and that’s all I probably should say.”
If you’ve read Annihilation you know it’s one hell of a surreal read, so hearing Vandermeer say Garland’s movie is even more extreme is kind of insane, and is exactly what I wanted to hear. Vandermeer offered a bit more on his Facebook page:
“I’m not really sure what I’m allowed to say about it or not say about it, so I’ll keep it simple…I’m still composing my thoughts and feelings about it. I can tell you it’s mind-blowing, surreal, extremely beautiful, extremely horrific, and it was so tense that our bodies felt sore and beat-up afterwards.”