Culture&Arts

Sisterhood on the set of sci-fi film 'Annihilation'

Sisterhood on the set of sci-fi film 'Annihilation'

Holy cow, no wonder they sold it off.

Rather than release the film in theatres, the film studio struck a deal with Netflix to effectively bypass the cinema altogether outside the US, Canada, and China.

I recently had the opportunity to discuss "Annihilation" with Alex Garland over the phone, and, of course, its ending was of huge interest to me. This can lead to audiences getting frustrated, and I get that.

"Annihilation", based on the novel of the same name by Jeff VanderMeer, actually manages to thoughtfully and carefully merge the genetic material of blockbuster and thought-provoking science fiction drama to create a new creature. Since they'd already seen it as well, they wanted to know why I liked it, and we stood there and discussed it for a good 10 minutes or so. The film's scientists follow a more coherent plan, with more forward motion, than they do in the book, and the monsters that hunt them are more conventionally scary. This isn't a literal translation from page to screen, and anyone expecting that is going to walk away disappointed. Garland pulls freely from VanderMeer's novel, but fair warning to book fans out there - this is not a straight adaptation, so go in with an open mind. If you're familiar with his work, then you have some idea what you'll be getting here, but clearly, as he gets older and he gains confidence and control as a director, he's simply focusing that voice in an increasingly pure way.

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In 'Annihilation, ' the actress plays a biologist on an expedition in a quarantined zone. There is a crash site in the southern United States where an alien ecosystem has taken root, and every group they send in has met with disaster. After her husband, Kane (Oscar Isaac), returns from a secret Army mission and falls mysteriously and critical ill, both spouses are taken into military custody and confined in a Guantanamo Bay-like facility. The imagery that Garland has conjured up here is often simultaneously handsome and grotesque, as when the remains of a member from a previous expedition are discovered plastered to a wall merged with a lichen-like metastasized growth that blossoms out from the skeletal remains. Films as singularly adventurous as this don't come around often. Part of the interaction here is that these things are genuinely alien, other, and beyond communication. We all began a conversation, and it was a rolling conversation swapping ideas. She has returned from a mysterious area that's come to be known as the Shimmer, although she's unclear of details including how long she was there and how much she had to eat while she was there. That is terrifying to me, because you can't reason with an organic process.

So you're not one to give actors notes on set? There's something of a magic trick to it in an adaptation of VanderMeer's work, since he writes in a way that is nearly intentionally oblique.

I think all the information is in there, but it is up to the individual how much they access it. Would you say Alex's version has captured that dream-like essence of the books? He communicates dread in a way that feels effortless on his part. He's a notoriously prickly personality, and there are moments in this video where you can see that he's visibly annoyed or uninterested in the interviewer's question. "My job is giving them space to do what they can do, not telling them what to do", says the Oscar-nominated filmmaker.

FEATURED IMAGE: From left - Jennifer Jason Leigh, Natalie Portman, Tuva Novotny, Tessa Thompson and Gina Rodriguez in a scene from "Annihilation".


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