There’s been some trepidation over Paramount Picture’s upcoming sci-fi film Annihilation due to the film’s unique and challenging nature, but according to the first critical reactions that hit the internet last night, this thing is the goods. The film serves as the directorial follow-up of Ex Machina writer/director Alex Garland, who adapts the Jeff VanderMeer novel of the same name. The movie stars Natalie Portman as a biologist and former soldier who joins a mission to uncover what exactly happened to her husband (Oscar Isaac) inside Area X, which is a mysterious—and growing—patch of land in the United States that seems to fundamentally alter everything in its path.
If you’ve read the book, you know this is a terrifying but incredibly difficult piece of material to adapt, but Garland’s talents seemed perfectly attuned to the brand of enviro-horror weirdness that Annihilation covers. And yet, while the trailers have been effective, the most recent spots have been selling a bit of a monster movie, which Annihilation the book isn’t really. Then there was the news that Paramount had offloaded international distribution of the film to Netflix—an indication that they may be “dumping” a bad movie, just as the studio did with The Cloverfield Paradox (which isn’t terrible, but you could see it bombing at the box office).
There were reports of arguments between two of the film’s producers, with Oscar-winner Scott Rudin backing director Alex Garland’s decisions while Skydance Productions head David Ellison worried about the film’s commercial prospects, reportedly asking for changes to the film’s ending. This is where the Netflix compromise came in—Ellison could ensure that some of his investment would be returned with the money the film made by selling its international rights to Netflix.
Basically the long and short of it is, while the movie looked terrific, there were some warning signs that the studio was nervous. The film screened for select press in New York and Los Angeles last night, however, and the reactions are not just positive, they’re absolutely glowing. It sounds like Garland has made yet another bold and original piece of sci-fi filmmaking, with one critic going so far as to call Annihilation a new sci-fi classic.
So yeah, this should definitely put to rest any fears that Annihilation is bad, and I couldn’t be more relieved. Here’s hoping audiences take a leap of faith when the movie opens on February 23rd and check out an innovative piece of science-fiction that dares to dream big. Peruse through the reactions below. Annihilation also stars Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez, and Tuva Novotny.
ANNHILATION is, in wholly inelegant terms, one hell of a mindfuck. Most of the time, I didn't want it to end; occasionally, I was so unsettled I thought I might keel over.
— Kate Erbland (@katerbland) February 8, 2018
— Drew Taylor (@DrewTailored) February 8, 2018
This much is clear: #Annihilation is NOT the movie you walk out and take to Twitter for a quick opinion. It's grabs you hard and leaves you frazzled. Hats off to Paramount for letting Garland be himself on a bigger budget https://t.co/1nkKEmuPkF
— Zack Sharf (@ZSharf) February 8, 2018
#ANNIHILATION: This is the type of sci-if we always say we want to see. Bold, challenging, singular, visually dazzling. Would not be the least bit surprised to see it hailed as a masterpiece (and it might actually be one).
— Ben Pearson (@benpears) February 8, 2018
Alex Garland’s #Annihilation is another example of the kind of brainy sci-fi we don’t see enough of. Badass female cast and a story that’s both beautiful and wickedly disturbing, and an ending you will talk about for days. Dug it so much pic.twitter.com/fW77z6xX4v
— ErikDavis (@ErikDavis) February 8, 2018
Alex Garland's #Annihilation is absolutely phenomenal. It's gorgeous and mesmerizing, with brilliant performances from the entire ensemble. It's a remarkable vision, and has a sequence so thrilling that I was left literally dizzy. It will be on my Top 10 of 2018 without question. pic.twitter.com/zGmDGlyh0M
— Eric Eisenberg (@eeisenberg) February 8, 2018
— Jenna Busch (@JennaBusch) February 8, 2018