Paramount Pictures has debuted the first trailer for Alex Garland’s “Annihilation,” based on the Jeff VanderMeer novel of the same name. The film marks Garland’s return after the breakout success of “Ex Machina,” and the trailer teases a wildly ambitious and surreal science-fiction vision.
Head over to IndieWire’s trailer post to watch the preview in its entirety, and then click through the gallery as we break down the most important shots and what they mean for Garland’s trippy new movie.
The trailer begins with this gorgeous establishing shot depicting five female scientists leaving a government-protected base. It appears the military has set up a facility on the outskirts of an enviornmental disaster zone where the scientists are heading. The women are played by the likes of Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez, and Jennifer Jason Leigh.
Another establishing shot, this one from the perspective of the women approaching the danger zone. The forest area appears blocked up by a plasma-like wall. Whatever has occured in this territory, it’s clear it hasn’t been too harmful to the plants and trees.
A close-up of the plasma-like wall is one of the trailers most intriguing shots. We’ll have to wait and see what exactly this structure is made of, but for now we’ll get lost in its colorful and slimy texture.
Natalie Portman plays the film’s protagonist, a scientist named Lana. According to Garland, “Lana finds a very strange, dream-like, surrealist landscape, and goes deeper and deeper into that world, and also into that mindset.” Expect the character’s psychological journey to give Portman one her most complex roles to date.
Whatever the plasma-like structure is made of, it appears it’s easily penetrated. The scientists walk through and enter the danger zone. Each member of the group is carrying numerous supplies, which indicates their mission isn’t intended to only last a couple hours.
Here we see Lana being interrogated by other scientists who are wearing hazmat suits. Once you go into the danger zone, you clearly become at risk of being infected by something mysterious. The scientists are questioning Lana about an organism she came in contact with, but Lana is unable to describe it.
Some of the most important shots in the trailer establish the landscape within the danger zone. The setting is primarly forest-like.
The team finds a skeleton stuck in a wall and covered in moss-like flora. The skeleton appears to be shrieking in pain or crying out for help, which is never a good sign. The image is the first tease that the plants in this environment could be deadlier than you think.
The disaster zone isn’t all forests. Here we see Lana taking a moment and clearing her head on a beach.
“It reacted to me,” Lana says to the scientist interrogating her. We see a light source of some kind expanding with the same rainbow-like colors that are found in the plasma wall. This is our first look at whatever organism seems to be of the highest importance to the film’s plot.
This looks to be Lana’s first real encounter with the indescribable entity. The tiny spec may not seem harmful, but the utter disbelief on Lana’s face makes it seem like it has some kind of hypnotic control over her. Perhaps the entity takes her mind to another place, and that’s where the film starts getting surreal.
Oscar Isaac is playing Lana’s husband, and our first look at the character isn’t a great one. Initial reports suggested the group was entering the zone to find Lana’s missing husband, but the trailer teases the husband has already been found but has grown ill due to whatever he came into contact with. In order to save him, Lana must enter the zone to find a cure.
Our first official look at “Annihilation” arrived as an image of Lana inspecting a crocodile. Garland warned that the crocodile was not your traditional one, and here we see two deer-like animals that are anything but of this world. Whatever is happening in the zone, it’s clearly altering species.
Our first look at Jennifer Jason Leigh! We don’t know her character’s name yet, but she doesn’t look too happy.
One of the most revealing shots depicts a group of flora in the shape of living, breathing humans. Is this the actual enviornment taking a living form? Or is it the group of scientists who have now been fully converted into flora? These questions will keep us guessing until February 2018.
We seem to be looking at a desert or scortched landscape, which would imply the environment that was once the danger zone has been eliminated. In its place are sparkling trees that are definitely not of this world.
Our first look at Gina Rodriguez pretty much confirms she’s the biggest badass of the group.
One of the most telling shots of the trailer is of this arm being infected by what looks to be grassy roots. As the skeleton in the wall first implied, the flora of the disaster zone seems to infect humans and take root inside them.
Tessa Thompson makes her debut late in the trailer, but one look at her is enough to know that the arm we saw in the previous shot belongs to her. Thompson has clearly been infected by the environment, which doesn’t bode too well for the character making it out alive.
It looks like Isaac won’t be spending all of “Annihilation” in a comatose state. Here we see his character being spotted in a cave-like setting and being utterly freaked out by whatever he’s looking at. This could be the moment that leads Isaac to being sick.
Is this the same cave where Isaac had a critical encounter with something? Whatever this shot is showing, it’s a stunner.
Portman’s character isn’t going to go down without a fight. Add Lana to the growing list of strong-willed female protagonists in studio films.
This shot only lasts a millisecond in the trailer, but it seems to be the biggest spoiler the preview is willing to reveal. Those teeth definitely belong to something beast-like. Is this the creature that attacked Isaac? Is this the animal the group has been hunting all along? Whatever it is, it’ll definitely be one of the team’s deadliest encounters.
VanderMeer has said that the end of “Annihilation” channels “2001: A Space Odyssey,” so we’re willing to guess this surreal shot of bones and extraterrestrial structures occurs during the climactic third act. Clearly others have gone into the zone and have never come out.
Night falls in the zone but some of the trees begin catching fire and are set ablaze. Either Lana lit the trees up as a signal to somebody or it’s the environment, possibly the air, that is flammable. A shot earlier in the trailer depicted a scorched desert. Perhaps these fires are the cause.