Get ready to get weirded out… Annihilation is coming on February 23.
I will admit trying to digest Jeff VanderMeer’s horror novel, Annihilation… and failing. It is a dense, trippy read. Stephen King, this is not. It is one of those kinds of books I know I should appreciate, but I got bogged down in the twisty realities it spun. Parts of it were brilliantly evoked, but other sections of the book just lost me, and I had to put it down. The book is a divisive one, with some people hailing it as a masterpiece of Kafka soaked haunting strangeness. Others got bored. Others tried, but really just couldn’t struggle through it. (Me!)
And now, here comes the movie! The production pedigree is fantastic. The director is Alex Garland, whose debut film was the beautifully rendered Ex Machina. He’s bringing his band back together with cinematographer Rob Hardy, and composer Simon Ashdown… all good signs for the quality of product. It has a strong cast, led by Natalie Portman, with Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Oscar Isaac, and Benedict Wong. So what I’m hoping for here, is for this cast and crew to explain to me what I was missing with the book. I struggle with reading Phillip K. Dick too, but I loved Blade Runner, so I am hoping Garland can translate the book for me in something I can comprehend.
The story is roughly (and I mean ROUGHLY) this:
Area X is a mysterious environmental disaster zone, walled by the shimmer (a luminous veil of shifting colors) and what lays beyond is a big mystery. Society is collapsing, and Area X is expanding, so humanity needs to know if there’s a future on the other side worth living in. However, Area X though initially deemed to be a new Eden, has proven dangerous. Eleven teams have been sent in, and none have successfully been able to describe what is on the other side. Some groups disappeared, some returned but with aggressive cancer, some committed suicide. The twelfth expedition is made up of four female scientists, sent forth to try and bring back samples, evidence, and an explanation of what lies on the other side of the shimmer. As the women explore the wilderness in Area X, they find strange structures, bizarre life forms, and haunting evidence of those who came before them.
I will be very curious to see how… or if… this movie succeeds, both artistically and financially. The book was ambitious, and this trailer suggests that the movie is also. Annihilation is rated R, and opens February 23 in theaters.