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The first teaser trailer for Alex Garland’s latest film Annihilation, due for release next February and based on the Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer, is out and looks amazing!

For those familiar with the books – I’ve just started the third, Acceptance, myself – it’s clear that they’ve folded in elements of the first two stories and in adapting it for the screen made some plot changes. Most obviously, turning the tale of an all-female scientific expedition investigating an Exclusion Zone known as Area X – where a mysterious infestation of ‘pristine wilderness’ is under way and spreading – into the story of a woman driven to discover what happened to her husband on the previous expedition into that Zone, by joining the next one.

Natalie Portman stars in the movie as a scientist named Lena, who is part of an expedition tasked with exploring an area which has been taken over by a mysterious force. “[She] finds a very strange, dream-like, surrealist landscape, and goes deeper and deeper into that world, and also into that mindset,” said Garland the writer of 28 Days Later and the writer-director of Ex Machina. [Source: EW]


Also, unlike ‘the Biologist’ in the book, now known as Lena, we get to see the border between our world and that of Area X. Of the Zone.Garland has stated this will be a standalone film, which is actually refreshing in this Golden Age of the Franchise. VanderMeer’s books aren’t a traditional, linear trilogy and having them tackled by a writer/director fresh off proving himself with Ex Machina to take on this much more ambitious work should serve as a complement to what I consider one of the best examples of the New Weird genre.

It’s been fascinating to watch the slow creep of works concerning the Zone manifest into the world. Apart from the Southern Reach trilogy, you have the popular podcast TANIS – which swears it wasn’t inspired by VanderMeer’s writings – and of course, the film Stalker – which VanderMeer maintains wasn’t an influence on his work.

It’s almost as if there’s some force operating in the collective unconscious, seeding the idea… watching it take root across time, preparing the way for its coming. It’s the only logical conclusion.

It can’t be any weirder than Stalker – the original Zone movie, and recently re-released in a remastered edition – having being adapted from the book Roadside Picnic by the Strugatsky Brothers, together prophesying the arrival of a real-world Exclusion Zone at Chernobyl?

Or the film showing up as the backdrop for a fight in Atomic Blonde.If we generalise the concept slightly to encounters with the alien-other, it’s notable that Annihilation is slated for release at the same time as Pacific Rim 2, a film where the pollution of the Earth has made the planet habitable for Kaiju from a neighbouring dimension. In the Southern Reach universe, we see the opposite occurring: a force far more alien – to the extent that expedition-after-expedition is sent in to try to understand it, while its entire existence is the subject of a government cover-up – that’s not been invited, so much as probably caused by our accidental terraforming and is here to help… according to its unknowable agenda, anyway… and also, probably not us, but rather the Planet.

All of which is enough to re-wire your brain, just like Amy Adam’s encounter with the alien-other in Arrival – a film’s whose success can only help Annihilation find a wider audience. A female-led scientific expedition, on behest of the government, to encounter and decipher the alien-other in a slightly more mundane setting that still has its own local gravity field.All of which is to say, Annihilation looks great and if it is part of some cultural colonisation by higher-dimensional beings operating through everything from movies to podcasts I really don’t think it’s the worst thing going on right now.