Annihilation is the product of Alex Garland's latest big idea in science fiction

New release boasts an all-female narrative which has garnered an online anticipation.

Natalie Portman is one of four compelling protagonists — that all happen to be female — in Annihilation.

Peter Mountain / For Paramount Pictures

Natalie Portman is one of four compelling protagonists — that all happen to be female — in Annihilation.

Novelist-turned-filmmaker Alex Garland loves science fiction for one central reason — it allows for the introduction of a lot of big ideas that don’t work in other narratives.

“It’s partly about the genre itself but it’s also about the people who dig the genre. They’re not embarrassed of big ideas; they kind of want them,” insisted the mind behind such hits as zombie thriller 28 Days Later and 2015’s Ex Machina. “If you take Philip K. Dick’s ideas out of Blade Runner, then Blade Runner is half the movie.”

Garland’s new thriller, Annihilation, is no less brimming of big notions.

Based on Jeff VanderMeer’s bestseller about an all-female expedition seeking out an alien crash site that brings mysterious and fatal consequences to all who dare to trespass, the movie investigates wild ecological anomalies and even questions humankind’s relationship to nature.

“It was easy to adapt but then difficult to make because there’s so much weird stuff in the film,” admitted Garland of the cinematic spectacle.

“It’s more daunting because you feel a responsibility to the original writer but then someone else has also done a lot of the heavy lifting.”

Among the heft was crafting four compelling protagonists (led by Natalie Portman) that all happen to be female — a rarity in the genre.

“That was completely deliberate,” said the 47-year-old filmmaker of his female-led narrative devoid of gender politics. “The point, in a way, was the absence of an argument — not the presentation of an argument.

“It also means it’s now difficult to talk about because I want to leave it as the absence of an argument; I don’t want to undermine that. But basically, not talking about it was more significant than talking about it.”

According to online anticipation of the film, it also shows that an all-female narrative can invigorate the typically male-dominated genre of sci-fi — a fact that perhaps doesn’t shock Garland.

“I think we’re sort of brought up and taught in all sorts of ways, sometimes by notion or science, that male and female brains are different — men are from Mars, women are from Venus, that sort of bulls—t,” said the director of crafting female protagonists.

“But actually, I just don’t think it's true (and) there’s no difference for me.”


The Beach (2000) — “I was 23 when I started working on it,” recalled Garland of his debut novel that Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) adapted for cinema. “I can hardly remember it; it just seems like I was a kid.”

28 Days Later, starring Cillian Murphy, was written by Alex Garland.


28 Days Later, starring Cillian Murphy, was written by Alex Garland.

28 Days Later (2002) — “(The) adaptation of The Beach lacked edge and aggression and a punk feel that the book had,” said Garland. “28 Days Later was a reaction against that. I thought, all right, here’s some edge, here’s some anarchy!”

Never Let Me Go (2010) — “The responsibility of adapting the work of a really good friend and a really great writer was terrifying,” said Garland of screenwriting Kazuo Ishiguro’s acclaimed novel. “I was nervous on that project from start to the very end.”

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