With Alex Garland’s “Annihilation’ now playing in theaters nationwide, Paramount has been largely praised for allowing the science-fiction auteur to stay true to his vision despite fears from executives the film would be too polarizing for audiences. The director’s theatrical cut is nearly identical to what he envisioned in the script, aside from one small set piece. Garland tells Collider that only one major sequence was cut from the movie.
“A whole sequence got cut actually really early in the edit, and that just took like ten minutes off, just like that,” Garland said, but he stressed that no other major moments or set pieces were removed. “The rest of it was really just about refining it, zeroing on in the intention in a scene and making it just tight.”
The deleted scene in question occurs during the first meeting between Natalie Portman’s Lena and Jennifer Jason Leigh’s Dr. Ventress. In the theatrical cut, Ventress’ team abducts Lena after her husband falls ill. Lena wakes up in a holding room and is introduced to Ventress. The original moment, however, found Lena waking up and, before meeting Ventress, finding a way to escape the room. She knocks out a guard, steals his gun, and leaves the facility, only to realize she’s in a remote area with nowhere to run.
Garland explained the scene to Collider as follows:
It’s this weird thing that happens in a script to seeing it, that things make sense sometimes when you’re reading it, but when you watch it, it immediately stops making sense. Essentially what happens in the sequence is that Natalie Portman, quite early on in the film is locked in a sort of chamber where she first meets Dr. Ventress and when Ventress leaves, Natalie’s character Lena is stuck there and she escapes from that chamber and knocks out a guard, takes his gun, shoots her way through a glass door, makes her way through the facility and finally busts out and sees the shimmer for the first time.
Garland says the scene didn’t work because it started the Lena-Ventress relationship off on a hostile note. In one of the subsequent scenes, Lena pressures Ventress into letting her join the mission inside Area X, but that moment would have rung false if Lena had just tried to escape and proved herself to be combative.
“It created a problem that her character goes from a state of real adversity with this corporation to then being taken on a mission to this place, and it’s a weird U-turn,” Garland explained. “And actually, it made more sense that she says I want to see this thing, and Ventress says OK and takes her to see it.”
After removing the 10-minute sequence, Garland was able to use editing to bridge the gaps in the film together. No reshoots were required. The director says removing the sequence made “more logical sense” for Lena’s character.
“Annihilation” is now playing in theaters.