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Scary Monsters: Alex Garland on Mutation and ‘Annihilation’

"Garland deliberately set out to construct a dream-like film, with the exploratory team encountering ever more strange sights, including a diverse array of threatening creatures."

Annihilation is the new science film from Ex Machina writer-director Alex Garland and stars Natalie Portman as a biologist and military veteran named Lena,” writes Clark Collis. “Portman’s character is part of a five-person team sent into the weird world of ‘the Shimmer,’ an area of America which has been taken over by a seemingly extraterrestrial force. Garland deliberately set out to construct a dream-like film, with the exploratory team encountering ever more strange sights, including a diverse array of threatening creatures, as they travel deeper into the Shimmer.” To read more from this article, click here.

“What’s happening in that tropical landscape—mostly contained within a national park, though its borders are expanding—is, well, weird, involving a possibly alien recalibration of all DNA and organic matter,” explains Henry Stewart. “Plants are mimicking people, alligators are crossbreeding with sharks, and human consciousness is being imprinted onto hideous boar-bear hybrids. It’s a realm of biological fluidity, as if all cells were being mixed together in a big pot and ladled back out into the world in all sorts of wacky combinations. To read the full article, click here.

Cinematographer Rob Hardy, says Henry Stewart,”captures the Shimmer in hyper-surrealistic fashion: The film’s images often looks as though they were shot through melting glass, illuminated with all the colors of a pastel rainbow—and midday skies sparkle with rays of orange and purple.” To read the full article, click here

We knew we wanted it to be beautiful and disturbing, often concurrently within the same shot,” Garland tells Ben Pearson. “So really, what happened was, there’s a script. And in the script it’s straightforward in many respects, because it says, like, say, this scene, you’d say, ‘INTERIOR. HOTEL BAY. Three people sit around a coffee table.’

“But then of course, production designers and set decorators need to make it something where you can stick a camera. So the script was disseminated among the collective, the group of people who work together, many of whom I’ve worked with for a long time – some of them twenty years. Me and [set decorator] Michelle Day and Mark [Digby] on the production design team, [producer] Andrew [Macdonald] – we’ve worked together on seven or eight movies, so we know each other backwards.

“It all goes out, and really what happens is, a conversation starts. Everybody’s got a voice, and everybody’s chipping in, and an organic, evolutionary process begins and it doesn’t really stop.

“It doesn’t really stop until the picture’s locked. Right in the 59th minute of the twelfth hour, or whatever the right thing to say is, in the grade, these things are being affected hugely. How much do you saturate the colors? Where do you choose to desaturate? Where do you choose to put a bright point in the screen and do we have a vignette on the shot to focus? So it never really stops. It’s a big collective all working together and getting there organically.” To read the full interview, click here

Read more: Annihilation and Ex Machina Director Alex Garland on Using Sci-Fi to Explore Self-Destruction

Read more: Annihilation Director on Film’s Nightmare Shoot: “It Was Just So Difficult”

George Pendle says the film “shifts from being a medical thriller to a hallucinogenic sci-fi film to a mutated body-horror movie out of David Cronenberg,” he says. “It’s something that a subset of the audience kind of enjoys, that feeling of being wrong-footed, but the other part of the audience just feels wrong-footed and wants to know where they are.

“The director’s aim was to make a film that transitions ‘from suburbia to psychedelia’ by dropping viewers in the familiar, almost to the point of Hollywood cliché, and then gradually immersing them in the bizarre. It’s a very successful technique,” Pendle adds. 

“Like a frog being slowly boiled alive in a pot of water, the audience will quite happily follow the beats of the story until they all of a sudden find that their brains have been cooked and served to them on a plate.” To read the full article, click here.

Read more: Alex Garland Mutated Annihilation Into a Psychedelic Sci-Fi Horror

“It’s a bracing brainteaser with the courage of its own ambiguity,” concludes Peter Travers. “You work out the answers in your own head, in your own time, in your own dreams, where the best sci-fi puzzles leave things. Get ready to be rocked.” To read the full review, click here.