Following Ex Machina, his stunning, engrossing thriller contemplating the potential for emotional capability within artificial intelligence, Alex Garland has taken on another futuristic sci-fi thriller, an adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer’s best seller Annihilation, starring Natalie Portman as a biologist investigating the mysterious disappearance of her husband, played by Oscar Isaac.
Annihilation is the first book in VanderMeer's Southern Reach Trilogy, a series which Mac Rogers called a “frustrating triumph” here in Slate. (VanderMeer is also an occasional Slate contributor.) It follows an all-female expedition into Area X, a region of the United States that has been taken over by an unknown, hostile force. Area X is described by those who visit it as “a pristine wilderness,” from which few who enter make it back alive—and they are generally devoid of their critical faculties when they do.
The trailer shows both the dystopian landscape surrounding Area X and the disquieting utopia within it: deer-strewn forests, flowery meadows, and what appear to be sparkly trees. Portman's Lena, having returned from beyond the bubble-mixture-like force field that surrounds Area X, doesn’t seem to have the answers to any of the questions being thrown at her by researchers, though she does know at least one thing about what she encountered there: “It reacted to me.”
Portman's other team members include Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, and Tessa Thompson, so it's safe to say that expecatations for this are very high. Annihilation hits theatres Feb. 23, 2018.