In a year when women are finally reclaiming their power, the trailer for the sci-fi movie Annihilation couldn't have come at a better time. It promises the female-led sci-fi thriller that's beyond your wildest dreams, because you probably haven't even dared to imagine a film so jam-packed with talent. The hotly-anticipated film was based on a book of the same name, the first in a trilogy, and will be released on Feb. 23, 2018. But the most exciting part is yet to come: all four of its main characters are women.
That would be The Biologist, played by Natalie Portman; the Anthropologist, played by Gina Rodriguez; The Surveyor, played by Westworld's Tessa Thompson; and The Psychologist, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, fresh off a season of the rebooted Twin Peaks. (The film's characters are mainly referred to by their areas of expertise rather than by name. Mysterious, no?)
According to the book's plot, the four make up a competent, all-female team that's been tasked with exploring and investigating a secret and rapidly spreading zone of the world known as Area X. Behind a filmy, almost oily curtain, nature has reclaimed its foothold and a lush, mysterious landscape is thriving. No one who passes over the boundary — termed "the shimmer" — has ever returned, except for the husband of The Biologist. He's played by Oscar Isaac, but based on the trailer, he spends much of the film unconscious, afflicted by the unknown forces after his own failed expedition into Area X.
Even with a full trailer, the film still stays largely secretive with terrifying monsters only glimpsed. So we'll have to wait until its premiere to delve deeper into the story. (Unless, of course, you've read the series upon which it was based.)
The rest of what we know about the project is from a production angle, where there's good news and mediocre news. The mediocre news is that the girl power-heavy film unfortunately missed a golden opportunity to be female-written and or directed. But the good news is, it's still in good hands. The Annihilation ship is helmed by Alex Garland, who previously brought his talents to the critically-and audience-acclaimed Ex Machina. He's given both a directing and a writing credit on this feature, sharing the latter with the book's author, Jeff VanderMeer.
The book has been lauded by critics since its February 2014 release, but the acclaim has not been so universal for all readers. Goodreads users are torn on the text; 86 percent report liking the book, but 40 percent of readers gave it a ranking of three stars or less. Many complain that the plot moves slowly or that the writing fails to engage them, problems that seem likely to be addressed in the film. Just from the trailer, the lush visuals are already apparent, and the two-and-a-half minutes of footage already gets the heart racing. In the words of the director Garland, speaking to Entertainment Weekly:
"We tried to aim for something that was beautiful and disturbing and seductive, all at the same time. And I think that the collective that made the film managed to pull that off."
It seems that they're off to a great start in that department, and Annihilation certainly has the cast to pull off an epic, badass, female-led movie. The film has etched out a clear niche for itself in the area where sci-fi and horror converge, with a dollop of mystery added for good measure. VanderMeer himself describes the film to podcast The Watch as "more surreal than the novel," noting that Garland's work is "extremely beautiful, extremely horrific, and so tense that our bodies felt sore and beat-up [after watching it]."
It's a lot to look forward to for a variety of reasons, so make sure to clear your calendar, even if you weren't the most convinced by the original novel.