Ever since unleashing Ex-Machina on the world, everyone’s been wondering what Alex Garland would concoct for his second act. Well, now we know thanks to the haunting first trailer for his next film, Annihilation.
Based on Jeff VanderMeer’s eponymous novel, the first in his sweeping Southern Reach trilogy, Annihilation stars Natalie Portman as a scientist who’s so determined to find out what happened to her missing husband (Oscar Isaac), that she’s willing to lead an all-female expedition into a mysterious part of Florida known as Area X.
In the book, Area X forms after some kind of an environmental disaster. What remains is an inscrutable and possibly hostile force with both mystical and fatal properties. So while it may be pretty to look at, as the mesmerizing trailer suggests, it also has the tendency to kill anyone who gets too close.
“The beauty part of it was quite important,” Garland said of having to make something dangerous aesthetically alluring. “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.”
Somehow, Portman’s character manages to escape and is questioned by her fellow researchers about what she saw. “It reacted to me,” a visibly shaken Portman responds. This is high-minded sci-fi geared towards adults with an elevator pitch—one woman confronts an unknowable alien force that changes her life forever—that recalls Denis Villenuve’s masterpiece Arrival.
Speaking of Villeneuve, if Annihilation delivers on its promising teaser, Garland will be well on his way to entering that top tier of filmmaker where Villeneuve currently resides. Ex-Machina was an absorbing and cerebral piece of sci-fi that was both riveting and philosphically probing at the same time. That’s a difficult high wire act that most directors can’t pull off. Garland did it with aplomb. We really can’t wait for the encore.
Annihilation hits theaters on February 23, 2018. Watch the trailer here.