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‘Annihilation’ First Look: Alex Garland Returns With A ‘Very Weird and Very Beautiful’ Science-Fiction Drama

The 2018 movie season looks to start with a bang thanks to the next science-fiction offering from Alex Garland.

"Annihilation"

“Annihilation”

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Easily one of the most anticipated titles of next year is “Annihilation,” which marks the return of “Ex Machina” writer-director Alex Garland. Entertainment Weekly has debuted the first official image from the science-fiction drama, which finds Natalie Portman’s character facing down the mouth of a very large mutated alligator. Portman plays a scientist named Lana, who Garlands explains “finds a very strange, dream-like, surrealist landscape, and goes deeper and deeper into that world, and also into that mindset.”

“Annihilation” is based on the Jeff VanderMeer novel of the same name and co-stars Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, and Tessa Thompson. Oscar Isaac, who played a memorable scientist in Garland’s “Ex Machina,” plays Portman’s husband in the movie. The plot centers around a group of female scientists who head out on a mission to an environmental disaster zone in order to locate Lana’s husband. Isaac warned Entertainment Weekly that the movie “very weird and very beautiful.”

“The beauty part of it was quite important,” Garland adds. “Even when it’s grim, and something dark is happening, there’s quite an overt beauty, and we took pains to make sure that happened.”

The “weird” part Isaac mentions was first teased by VanderMeer earlier this year when he compared “Annihilation” to the more surreal elements of Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.” “The ending is so mind-blowing,” he said, “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.” Adding to the weirdness is the alligator Portman is inspecting in the first look below, which “has physical elements to it that should not belong on an alligator,” according to Garland.

Garland, who first rose to prominence as the screenwriter of movies like “Dredd,” “28 Days Later,” and “Never Let Me Go,” was asked to direct the film by Scott Rudin himself. The mega-producer had read the novel and thought the director’s work on “Ex Machina” made him the perfect candidate. It only took one read for Garland to fall in love with the material.

“I don’t finish books, or films, or anything, really, if it isn’t grabbing me for one reason,” the director told EW. “I found the atmosphere incredibly strong and I liked the kind of dream state that it created and put me in. It had all sorts of qualities that I found really interesting. I thought immediately, Yes, I’d like to try this.”

“Annihilation” is the first entry in VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, the other two being “Authority” and “Acceptance,” but Garland didn’t sign up with any plans for additional installments. If “Annihilation” proves to be a hit for Paramount, the director’s plans could very well change. The movie opens in theaters February 23, 2018.

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