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What is Annihilation, Natalie Portman’s New, Mysterious Movie?

Abstract shots, unfathomable dialogues, and a purposely truly mysterious storyline… The content of Annihilation‘s first teaser trailer is set to keep the upcoming science-fiction movie, led by Natalie Portman, a true enigma.

Fortunately for those who are now curious to learn more about the project (and maybe that’s what this is all about) written and directed by Ex Machina‘s director Alex Garland, there’s already quite some details available about the book adaptation (that’s one) to cast some light on its secrets.

4 years after the success of Jeff VanderMeer’s novel of the same name, Annihilation is the adaptation of the aforementioned award-winning book, first part of a trilogy called Southern Reach. It follows the story of 4 women, a psychologist (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a biologist (Natalie Portman), an anthropologist (Gina Rodriguez), and a surveyor (Tessa Thompson) as they begin a scientific expedition in Area X, an expanding, abandoned environmental disaster zone cut off from the rest of civilization. Their group is said to be the 12th to attempt to discover and study the sector after all the members of the 11 previous squads either disappeared, killed themselves, or suffered from violent cancers and serious mental traumas.

Although throughout the tale their names and backstories are never revealed, it is known that the biologist (Portman) has lost her husband (Oscar Isaac), who was part of the 11th expedition through Area X, after he inexplicably returned from the journey and died from cancer like the rest of his team. It is therefore made clear that she volunteered for the research in order to better understand what led to his disappearance.

Still sounds like a puzzle? That’s probably because the book is one – and for good reason. “After about a minute, I closed my eyes and thought to myself, ‘Jesus, I hope this gets better,'” said book critic Jason Sheehan. “I went back to reading. And then, about three hours later, I looked up again with half the book behind me and wondered how I’d gotten from there to here. I flat-out marveled at the trick VanderMeer had pulled.”

Most importantly, the mystery surrounding the novel is actually what attracted Alex Garland in the first place. “I don’t finish books, or films, or anything, really, if it isn’t grabbing me for one reason,” he said to Entertainment Weekly. “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.”

Produced by Paramount Pictures, which acquired the rights to VanderMeer’s novel within the year of its release, Annihilation was filmed during the spring of 2016 in the UK. It marks the reunion between Oscar Isaac and Garland, 4 years after their collaboration for Ex Machina.

Even though the film should be part of a trilogy, Garland hasn’t expressed a desire to direct any follow-up and prefers to consider Annihilation a “standalone” movie. “At the point I started working on Annihilation, there was only one of the three books,” he explains. “I knew that it was planned as a trilogy by the author, but there was only the manuscript for the first book. I really didn’t think too much about the trilogy side of it.”

Annihilation is set to be released on February 23, 2018. And if you just can’t wait to discover what it’s really all about, you can always read the book and even forge ahead with its sequels Authority and Acceptance.