Annihilation looks set to be one of the biggest sci fi movies of 2018, and Paramount recently caused a lot of excitement when they dropped the first trailer. Written and directed by Alex Garland, the movie is an adaptation of the best-selling and highly-acclaimed novel by Jeff VanderMeer. Annihilation is the first volume of the author's The Southern Reach trilogy, so hopefully Paramount is waiting to see how the first adaptation is received before adapting the following novels, Authority and Acceptance, to screen.
Annihilation is only the start of the story, and if the movie is anything like the book, we'll be filled with questions and left desperate for answers, which are (mostly) delivered in Authority and Acceptance. Going by this first teaser trailer, the movie does look like it's faithful in bringing Jeff VanderMeer's disturbing vision to life. We glimpse scenes and images that are practically identical to the novel.
Without giving too much away, here's a breakdown of six in particular.
Warning: this article contains mild spoilers for the book Annihilation.
1. The Expedition
The first thing we see in the trailer is a shot of an expedition. This is the twelfth expedition sent by a secretive government agency, The Southern Reach, with the mission of investigating the mysterious Area X. In the book, the expedition includes a Psychologist, a Biologist, a Surveyor and a Linguist, but we never learn their names.
These details might seem unexciting until you find out how the disastrous 11 preceding expeditions turned out. One ended in mass suicide, another in gunfire, the eleventh in a fatal cancer epidemic. As the story progresses, the twelfth expedition discovers more about the previous ones and realize the terrifying dangers they are facing. They also begin to unearth questionable information about The Southern Reach. Doubt begins to set in: they have been led to believe that their mission is to investigate Area X, but is that really true?
2. Area X
The expedition makes the journey through the intangible and enigmatic border into Area X. Area X is a mysterious environmental disaster zone that has been remote wilderness for 30 years. First appearances showcase a peaceful landscape that nature has reclaimed, but upon closer inspection, however, there is a sense that forces less natural reign supreme. The Biologist describes the effect of the landscape in one part of the book as:
"I had the unsettling thought that the natural world around me had become some kind of camouflage."
The creepy, visually rich landscape of Area X makes for an awesome movie setting. Both vast and suffocating, Area X fills the expeditors with awe and dread. Soon they realize just how enclosed this space is — and how prey-like those who enter it are.
3. The Tunnel
In Area X, the expedition discover an formidable tunnel, or tower, as the Biologist insists on it being called in the book. Built by humans, over time it has been colonized by vines and lichen. Inside, there is strange writing on the wall, described by the Biologist as "rich green fernlike moss... probably a type of fungi or other eukaryotic organism."
This is when supernatural forces really come into play. Who — or what — wrote this message? What are the organisms? What is happening to the members of the exhibition after their exposure to it? There's something lurking in the darkness, something not only dangerous, but intrinsic to Area X. It's a disturbing discovery when you're stuck in Area X and unaware of what it wants, or what it is capable of.
4. The Interrogation
The narrator of Annihilation is the Biologist. The novel is her journal of experiences while on the expedition, meaning the audience can never have complete faith in her story or the details relayed by her. As we know, Annihilation is the first volume of Jeff VanMeer's The Southern Reach trilogy, and the third volume includes an interrogation of the Biologist post-expedition — which we see in the trailer for the film. This still means that we can never quite believe what we see because the story is told from her perspective: is the Biologist's account true or is she confused and deluded? This all adds to the uncomfortable, contorted atmosphere that permeates Annihilation.
5. The Biologist
So who is the Biologist? It's been difficult for many readers to make up their minds on the character. She's an introvert who struggles to get close to people — sharing her feelings is not something that comes easy her. In the book, her character remarks that society would probably label her "antisocial or selfish." But this all makes her seem real, human and in ways, relatable.
I'm looking forward to seeing what #NataliePortman brings to this character. The trailer indicates that she'll deliver an unnerving performance, which would be true to the Biologist of the book. The character has always felt like an outcast, so when she finds comfort in the alien land of Area X, it makes sense. Secretive and emotionally detached, the Biologist keeps us constantly questioning her account, which contributes to the sense of mystery.
6. The Biologist's Husband
One of the most poignant elements about the novel is the stark contrast between disturbing confusion and brutality and a touching love story at the very core.
While the story of Area X is told by pealing back layer after layer of mystery, we also find out more and more about the Biologist. And the more we discover about this character, the more monstrous she seems.
But there's more to her than her demons. At heart, the Biologist is a hero in spite of herself. She tried to convince herself that she doesn't miss her husband. She felt neglected when he left her to join the eleventh expedition. He came back only a shadow of the person he used to be, and shortly after his mysterious return, he died of cancer. But despite being all too aware of the dangers, the Biologist has followed his footsteps into Area X to discover what really happened to the man she loved — and whether or not he's really gone.
In an unnerving moment in the book, the biologist is surprised by some dolphins:
...it stared at me with an eye that did not, in that brief flash, resemble a dolphin eye to me. It was painfully human, almost familiar.
One of the book's most impressive features is the suffocating, uncomfortable atmosphere that Jeff VanderMeer skilfully created. If the trailer is anything to go by, the movie looks like it will be packed with creepy vibes. Add this to the fact that many scenes in the trailer are straight from the book, and it certainly seems like the novel's fans won't be disappointed.
Are you excited about Annihilation? Have you read the book? Comment now!