Alex Garland’s second feature Annihilation opened in the U.S. this past weekend off the back of rave reviews from critics, including our own Robert Kojder who gave the film a ★★★★ review and described it as a “superbly crafted sci-fi designed to get viewers contemplating its themes rather than give a cut-and-dry story depicting what weirdness happened and why.”
Unfortunately, audiences outside of North America and China won’t be able to enjoy Annihilation on the big screen, as Paramount Pictures sold off the distribution rights to Netflix amid disappointing reactions in test screenings and comments from producer David Ellison who feared that the movie is “too intellectual” and “too complicated”.
During an interview with The Toronto Star, Garland addressed those test screenings, and the concerns that the film is “too intellectual”:
“I don’t really give a shit,” said Garland. ” I don’t believe in it, as a bit of phrasing, nor do I actually think the film is very intellectual. I think it’s quite intuitive. There’s a requirement to have an open mind, I think, but that in itself is not intellectual. Annihilation is not more intellectual, say, than a bit of music that you can subjectively respond to and think that’s a beautiful bit of music or an ugly bit of music . . . I think the use of that word is sort of lazy . . . what it really means is the person watching it — the person making that statement — felt confused. But that’s a different thing. And it’s also something that I think belongs to a kind of contempt for moviegoers. I make (movies) as thoughtful as I can.”
Garland was also reportedly asked to make changes to the movie, specifically its ending, although ultimately he was able to deliver the version of the film that he originally intended. The filmmaker went on to address that in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, stating that Paramount knew what it was getting long from day one:
“When it says it in the script, it’s like a contract—that is what I’m going to do. Now, listen, at the end of the day, is that difficult for the people making it and for the studio? Yeah, it’s really fucking hard. It was difficult to make, and it’ll be difficult to sell. I’ve been working in film long enough to know that if I wrote this script and we tried to make it, I knew where that would lead. I wasn’t under any illusions. Sure enough, that’s where it led.”
Lena, a biologist and former soldier, joins a mission to uncover what happened to her husband inside Area X – a sinister and mysterious phenomenon that is expanding across the American coastline. Once inside, the expedition discovers a world of mutated landscape and creatures, as dangerous as it is beautiful, that threatens both their lives and their sanity.
Annihilation features a cast that includes Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny, Oscar Isaac, David Gyasi, Sonoya Mizuno and Benedict Wong.