Ex Machina writer-director Alex Garland is one of the most promising up-and-coming filmmakers out there, and his next project, an adaptation of Jeff Vandermeer’s award-winning 2014 novel Annihilation, looks like another knockout entry in Garland’s burgeoning filmography.
Paramount Pictures has released a first-look image from the thriller, in which star Natalie Portman examines an alligator-esque creature’s formidable jaws, as well as the spine-tingling first teaser for the movie, which you can watch below. The film also stars Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight), Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin), Tessa Thompson (Thor: Ragnarok), Tuva Novotny (A War), Benedict Wong (Doctor Strange) and Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina).
Vandermeer’s gripping and enigmatic novel tells the story of a team of women—a biologist (Portman), an anthropologist (Rodriguez), a psychologist (Leigh) and a surveyor (Thompson)—who are sent on an expedition into a mysterious region called Area X. Previous explorers of the area, including the biologist’s husband (Isaac), have returned psychologically traumatized, suffering from inexplicable diseases, or not at all. The film’s first-look image signifies a key point in that fraught journey: “[The alligator] is their first tangible encounter with something strange,” Garland told EW. “The alligator has physical elements to it that should not belong on an alligator. They’re starting to get their heads around how weird the place is.”
Annihilation has been flying way under the radar thus far—the last time we reported on it was back in July 2016, when Thompson, Rodriguez and cinematographer Rob Hardy (Ex Machina) shared a couple of stunning Instagram photos from the set, shortly after Garland and company wrapped principal photography. But from the looks of the film’s first footage, Annihilation’s time under the radar is over. Between the strength of its source material, and the ungodly amount of talent both in front of and behind the camera, Garland’s film is shaping up to be a must-see.
Annihilation is the first entry in Vandermeer’s best-selling Southern Reach Trilogy, but Garland says he’s not interested in diluting his movie for a franchise’s sake. “I’d rather work on a story that I felt was self-contained rather than one that sort of had a ‘dot-dot-dot’ at the end. I think that provokes a sort of instant, understandable, cynicism. We sense the money grab and I feel that pollutes the story,” he said. “So, right from the get-go, I did not think of this as being part of a trilogy; I thought of it as being just a single, self-contained movie. If other people wanted to do that, that would be fine. That’s none of my business. But from my point of view, it’s just one.”
Annihilation reaches theaters on Feb. 23, 2018. Check out the teaser and uncropped first-look photo below, and stay tuned for more info on this much-anticipated movie.