Annihilation director Alex Garland teases 'dream-like, surrealist' sci-fi thriller

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After Ex Machina became one of the breakout genre hits of 2015, fans wondered what was next for filmmaker Alex Garland. He made his directorial debut on that film (after years of screenwriting hits like 28 Days Later), and it seemed a world of new storytelling possibilities was open to him. While finishing Ex Machina, producer Scott Rudin handed Garland a copy of Jeff VanderMeer's novel Annihilation, and the new director instantly fell in love.

“I don’t finish books, or films, or anything, really, if it isn’t grabbing me for one reason. Well, I read it in a sitting," Garland told Entertainment Weekly. "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.”

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Annihilation, the first novel in VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy (though Garland tells EW he only plans to adapt the first book), follows a team of scientists (played in the film by Natalie Portman, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny, and Jennifer Jason Leigh) as they explore a place "taken over by a mysterious force." As they go deeper into their expedition, they uncover things they never expected.

“[Portman's character] finds a very strange, dream-like, surrealist landscape, and goes deeper and deeper into that world, and also into that mindset,” Garland said.

The film will also feature Oscar Isaac, Garland's Ex Machina collaborator, as Portman's husband.

EW has debuted a first look at the film, in which Portman's character can be seen probing the open mouth of a very strange-looking alligator. According to Garland, the image represents the team's first step into a strange new world.

“The alligator has physical elements to it that should not belong on an alligator," Garland said. "They’re starting to get their heads around how weird the place is.”

We've clearly only begun to glimpse the wonders Garland has in store for us. Hopefully a trailer will come along soon to show us more of Annihilation's world.

Annihilation hits theaters on Feb. 23, 2018.