Paramount Pictures has released a first look photo from the upcoming thriller Annihilation, which features star Natalie Portman in quite the precarious position. The actress is seen peering into the mouth of an alligator, although, given the gator's albino skin tone, and the nature of this story as a whole, this dangerous animal seems to be dead already. It's possible that this first look photo could ultimately hint that the first trailer is coming, but while we wait for that announcement, director Alex Garland sheds some more light on this film.
Entertainment Weekly debuted the photo, with the movie in the works for a few years now. Alex Garland took over directorial duties in October 2014, and Natalie Portman joined the cast in May 2015. The project is based on the Jeff VanderMeer 2014 novel of the same name, the first in his Southern Reach trilogy that is followed by Authority and Acceptance. Natalie Portman plays a scientist named Lena, who joins an expedition to a mysterious place known only as Area X, where there have been 12 previous expeditions that resulted in many team members either committing suicide, becoming mentally ill or even being stricken with cancer. EW caught up with Alex Garland, who reveals that this alligator seen in the photo represents the first thing Lena encounters that isn't quite right.
"It is their first tangible encounter with something strange. 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."
The director also describes Area X as a, "very strange, dream-like, surrealist landscape," with Lena going "deeper and deeper" into that world and mindset. Earlier reports revealed that Natalie Portman's character went on this expedition to find out what happened to her husband, who never returned from one of the expeditions. The cast is rounded out by Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight), Tuva Novotny (A War), Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin), and Tessa Thompson (Thor: Ragnarok), who costar as her fellow team members. While Oscar Isaac plays Portman's husband, reuniting the actor with his Ex Machina director. The filmmaker also revealed that he was in post-production on Ex Machina when he was approached by producer Scott Rudin, who had just acquired the rights to Jeff VanderMeer's book. Here's what the director had to say about how he was struck by the story.
"I was in post-production on Ex Machina, and one of the producers of that film, Scott Rudin, called up and said, 'I just acquired this book, I think it's interesting and, would you take a look.' I don't finish books, or films, or anything, really, if it isn't grabbing me for one reason. Well, I read it in a sitting. I found the atmosphere incredibly strong and I liked the kind of dream state that it created and put me in. It had all sorts of qualities that I found really interesting. I thought immediately, Yes, I'd like to try this."
Oscar Isaac also recently stated to EW that the movie would be "very weird and beautiful," with Alex Garland reiterating "that's what we were shooting for." While the original novel was the first part of a trilogy, Alex Garland insisted that his movie stands alone on its own, citing a previous disappointment with a film he made a few years ago that was envisioned as the first part of a trilogy. Here's what he had to say below.
"I did once work on a film called Dredd, which I imagined to be the first part of a trilogy. But it's not something I like doing. 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. 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."
Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions have set a February 23, 2018 release date for Annihilation, which will go up against The Weinstein Company's War With Grandpa and CBS Films' Winchester. It will also be sandwiched between Marvel's Black Panther, Lionsgate's Early Man and Pure Flix's Samson on February 16, 2018 and Warner Bros.' Game Night, 20th Century Fox's Red Sparrow and Sony's Alpha. Take a look at the first photo from Annihilation featuring Natalie Portman.