Alex Garland’s “Annihilation” is based on the first novel in Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy, but the director made it clear to his cast and crew during the film’s development that his only goal was to adapt the first book, and not to concern himself with its two sequels. Garland directed “Annihilation” with no intention of starting a new science-fiction film franchise, and earning some of the best reviews of 2018 hasn’t changed his mind.
“I’ve got no objection to someone else doing that, but I’m not interested in the idea of a sequel,” Garland told IndieWire during a discussion marking the film’s Blu-ray release. “I feel like we made this movie and this is the movie we made.”
Paramount opened “Annihilation” in February to an overwhelming response from critics and audiences. IndieWire’s Eric Kohn called the movie a “stunning science-fiction thriller” in his A- review, and the title currently sits in the #2 position on IndieWire’s running list of 2018’s best movies. Garland’s vision earned comparisons to Stanley Kubrick and Andrei Tarkovsky, and several outlets named “Annihilation” a new science-fiction classic. The studio has not announced any plans to develop a sequel, and Garland is not thinking about it either.
“When the thing is done, I am done with it,” Garland said about his overall approach to filmmaking. “I instantly start moving on, so I don’t even have an opinion on an ‘Annihilation’ sequel. All the way through I was clear with everyone, from the studio to the cast, I told everyone that I didn’t really see it as part of a franchise. My goal was to make this film and do the best job I can. I didn’t even conceptualize it as the start of a trilogy. Sequels are just not something I’m interested in doing. It’s like when you don’t like steak, you don’t make the decision not to eat steak, you just don’t eat steak. I just don’t do sequels.”
Garland’s dislike of making sequels is the result of his creative process. The director said that whatever he finds himself working on at the time is often a reaction or a “push-back” against the project he just made. This creative decision is what led Garland to make the jump from “Ex-Machina” to “Annihilation” in the first place.
“‘Ex Machina’ was very zoned in and specific. It had a very small cast. It’s effectively one location. There were four people, and often each scene included only pairs,” Garland told IndieWire last December. “In ‘Annihilation,’ you often have five people in a scene at once. It was the opposite.”
After spending three years in the world of “Annihilation,” the last thing Garland wants to do is return for VanderMeer’s sequel. The director will be reacting against “Annihilation” with his new project, the FX television show “Devs.” The cable network has given a pilot order to Garland’s science-fiction drama series. Garland couldn’t share much about the project, but he teased that where “Annihilation” went big and ambiguous, “Devs” goes precise and focused.
“‘Annihilation’ was a very kind of internal, intuitive kind of filmmaking. ‘Devs’ has a very specific kind of scientific and philosophic argument embedded within it,” Garland said. “‘Devs’ has this very rigorous argument to it. Telling you what that argument is now would undermine the series, but it has a central and very locked down argument embedded within it. ‘Annihilation’ has a fever dream aspect to it. ‘Devs’ does not.”
While Garland will be moving on from the world of “Annihilation,” he said he’ll always look back in extreme gratitude at the film’s response. The filmmaker admitted to reading the reactions to “Annihilation” and being moved by the numerous writers who were affected by the film enough to write about their own battles with self-destruction.
“There were pieces I read that people had written about the nature of self-destruction and depression and these kinds of internal collapses, and for me those were very effective on many levels,” Garland said about the response. “One of them was just a huge sense of release. That some of the non-overt structure of the film hand landed with people, that affected me. You never know if that’s going to be the case.”
Garland explained that at some point prior to the film’s release he had stopped worrying about the film and made his peace with the fact not everyone would be able to respond to it.
“I somehow felt like I was told it wasn’t going to work for everyone and so when it did, I was genuinely surprised,” he said. “I was truly taken aback by it. It was kind of amazing and moving to tell you the truth. You can’t take the comparisons to Kubrick or Tarkovsky seriously, but the people talking about the way it related to a very personal aspect of their life or their psychology, now that was very powerful for me.”
“Annihilation” is now available to own on digital, DVD, and Blu-ray.