Alex Garland’s directorial debut “Ex Machina” is one of the greatest science-fiction films of the 21st century, which inevitably means the pressure is on for his follow-up to deliver the goods. Fortunately, Garland is sticking with the sci-fi genre in “Annihilation,” an adaptation of the Jeff VanderMeer novel of the same name. The writer-director has mastered the genre once before, and if VanderMeer is to be believed, then it appears Garland is about to do it again.
The author has seen an early cut of the adaptation and has nothing but praise for Garland’s vision. Speaking to The Watch podcast on The Ringer (via The Film Stage), VanderMeer couldn’t help tease the movie by calling it “surreal” and noting how Garland took the ending into abstract Stanley Kubrick territory a la “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
“It’s actually more surreal than the novel,” he said. “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.”
But his praise didn’t stop there. In a Facebook post published earlier this month, the author added, “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.”
While VanderMeer is no doubt bias given the film is based on his novel, he actually had no part in the adaptation process. Garland wrote the screenplay himself, and while he kept VanderMeer in the loop so that the author would know what was going on, the latter had no say in what made it into the script whatsoever.
“The first thing I realized is that even though Alex Garland says he’s not an auteur, he is an auteur,” VanderMeer told The Watch. “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.”
“Annihilation” stars Natalie Portman as a biologist who embarks on a mission into an environmental disaster zone to figure out what happened to her missing husband. Gina Rodriguez, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Oscar Isaac and Tessa Thompson also star in the twist-filled drama.
The movie was originally set for release this fall, but Paramount recently pushed it back until 2018. While the wait may be long, it’s reassuring to know that even the author is thrilled with the liberties Garland took to his story. Consider “Annihilation” one of our most anticipated titles of 2018.