Writer/director Alex Garland isn’t a big fan of sequels, but he’s acutely aware that he’s been peripherally involved with at least one (“28 Weeks Later”) and talked about some loose ideas for another (“Dredd”). And he understands that they’re more or less expected. He has no intention for a sequel to “Ex Machina,” his hit indie sci-fi thriller starring Alicia Vikander, Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson (our review), but he empathizes with audiences who might be awaiting one. “The film does end with an ellipses, a sort of dot, dot dot,” he told us in a recent interview about his sci-fi picture that just became A24 Films’ highest grossing film domestically to date. “It’s also ingrained in the audience, like a paradigm. It’s just what you’re supposed to do. It must be what you want to do. How could you not want to do that?”
“I don’t want to sound overly judgmental about it, because it’s very easy to get precious about this stuff,” he continued. “I don’t feel that way about, but the thing of expecting and needing more of something, has it’s own built-in issues, I think. Because most stories don’t stand up to being repeated.”
The other problem Garland takes issue with is the unnatural idea of forcing a follow-up story and the striking-while-the-iron-is-hot impetus. “Sequels are generally done in a rush. It’s done with a sense of urgency,” he explained. “The first movie, you spend a long time developing to get it over the line. The second thing, you don’t. Your expectations are different and your motivations are different.”
This is why, despite reinvigorating the zombie genre with Danny Boyle on “28 Days Later,” Garland didn’t write the sequel (he was only an executive producer and doesn’t even have a “story by” credit) and didn’t have much interest in a third. In fact, he said that none of the parties involved were initially interested in finishing a trilogy and the possibility of a final film sat in limbo. “The rights to ‘28 Days’ were frozen, effectively, because they were shared between Danny [Boyle], [producer] Andrew [McDonald], myself, and Fox,” he said. “After the second one, none of us really wanted to do another. Fox may or may not have, I don’t know.”
But Garland says a third picture is moving forward with McDonald, the producer of the first two ‘28’ films and a producer on all of his movies thus far and many of Boyle’s films (including the intended “Trainspotting” sequel).
What changed exactly? Garland says he organically came upon an idea rather than having to force one out. “About two years ago, Danny started collaborating on the potential to make ‘Trainspotting 2,’ another sequel,” he explained. “In that conversation, an idea for ’28 Months’ arrived. I had a sort of weird idea that popped into my head. Partly because of a trip I’d taken. I had this thought, and I suggested it to Andrew and Danny, but I also said I don’t want to work on it. I don’t really want to play a role, and Andrew said, ‘Leave it to me.’ So he’s gone off and is working on it.”
So “28 Months Later,” or whatever it will be called eventually, will use Garland’s concept as the basis of the movie. “Yeah. It’s pretty simple,” he said of the idea. “Don’t you think those are, in a way, better? Because there is no momentum now, and you’ve had an organic, real spark about where I can take this. And it just popped into your head, kind of thing. Rather than, ‘Okay, I’m going to make a sequel.’ "
Garland wouldn’t divulge details, but obviously this is good news for fans of the series and zombie movies in general. No director or timetable has been set either, but keep your ear to the ground for developments. Much more from this interview later in the week. “Ex Machina” is in theaters now.