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Head into the Zone with Natalie Portman in the Teaser for ANNIHILATION

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.

Contributing Editor
  1. I’ve watched the Teaser multiple times
    I’ve watched the Teaser multiple times, going frame by frame in many cases. I’m finally reading the book as well.

    – 0:50 – Body transformed/split and part of the wall

    – 1:10 – Deer with antlers blooming

    – 1:16 – A group of people transformed into plants

    – 1:20 – Crystal trees

    – 1:29 – A creature moving between the standing women

    – 1:30 – The lighthouse and skeletons, with the organic? hole on the side of the lighthouse

    – 1:31 – The glowing entity

    I’ll have to wait for a longer trailer for more hints. This stuff is a major thread running through my stuff, so I collect the books, movies, TV series that build on the concept.

    When I saw the Teaser I had to pull up this classic video to go with it. But that’s beside the point. HA!

    Resistance 2 PS3 new TV commercial :60 second version

    This next part is a bit TL;DR, so feel free to skip.

    If you get the chance, watch The River, it was a short TV series from 2012 that was similar in form. The River was a bio(logic) entity controlling a region. The entity is the vast network of soil existing all along the river, and forest, connecting the people and animals.

    The River (U.S. TV series) 2012

    wiki – The River (U.S. TV series)

    Then Stephen King had a novel where the lake was a living being, connecting the people in the town that surrounds it, hijacked by an angry spirit.

    wiki – Bag of Bones

    – Think of a lake or river system as the soil that contains and controls everything.

    Greg Bear has written stories about bacterial intelligence in many of his books. Vitals was explicitly that. Plus his Darwin’s Children sequence showing how people transitioned from Neanderthal to us, to the next people by mediated changes in DNA, without intermediate forms.

    wiki – Vitals (novel)

    Also the Threshold TV series had aliens using sound to activate bio(logic) changes. The series collapsed when they walked away from the obvious implications of such change.

    wiki – Threshold (TV series)

    Threshold S01E01 HD – Trees Made of Glass: Part 1, Season 01 – Episode 01

    If you get the chance watch NOVA’s _Rat Attack_ to see Symbiogenesis and bio(logic) in action.

    NOVA | Rat Attack! | PBS

    Rat Attack PBS Nova Documentary

    In the example of Rat Attack, think of the bamboo forest as a way for soil to make more soil. Consider the soil as a living intelligence that works long term, controlling and refining the system. The bamboo feeds sugars to the soil. The rat bloom and die off is to aerate the soil, and provide nitrogen.

    Basically, the concept of Symbiogenesis that Lynn Margulis developed is where evolution occurs by symbiosis rather than the nonsense of Darwinian evolution. Evolution does not occur by random mutations, but by organisms forming symbiotic groups and hybridization.

    For example: Bacteria routinely harvest useful DNA from different organisms and spreads it around, manipulating itself and life around it. In essence, all complex life was made by direct bacterial manipulation. Over the next century understanding how bacteria mediate all complex life on Earth will be how many illnesses will be cured. They are already beginning to find that gut bacteria are at the base of most problems, from Autism, to Parkinson’s disease, to Alzheimer’s disease, to Diabetes.

    Many of the stories in fiction that have been told for over a hundred years suddenly make sense if you factor bacteria responding to environmental changes. This concept is so fun, and lends itself to so many stories.

    – Many fungi require that they be consumed and then excreted to be able to grow. Think of a Lovecraftian Eucharist, where someone consumes the symbolic flesh and blood of an Old One, where transubstantiation occurs in the gut. The night soil is collected and buried in a forest where the soil is hijacked to grow a new body, to emerge like a cicada, fully formed. The Old One needs that process of passing through a human gut to sample human DNA and grow in Earth soil to acclimate to our environment.

  2. I read the series and I
    I read the series and I appreciate it
    In trying to be ineffable (and am always happy to see a writer get their inside imaginings published)
    I was spoiled by Roadside Picnic which is my Gold Standard
    I do hope this movie manages 2 avoid the Idiot Plot (via David Brin: anything humanity does is doomed to fail and we are never competent etc)

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