There are few people in working in entertainment today with as much genre cred as Alex Garland, the talented British screenwriter who is making his directorial debut with the insanely good looking Ex Machina, which released its first trailer recently. Not one to stand idly by while things happen around him, Garland has already locked down his next project, as he’s taking on Annihilation, the pitch perfect first novel in Jeff VanderMeer’s haunting Southern Reach trilogy. I’m having trouble thinking of how this news could get any more exciting.
Garland will both write the screenplay and direct Annihilation for Paramount and Scott Rudin, who acquired the rights to VanderMeer’s novel last year. (You may have heard my squeals of delight when that happened.) The Southern Reach books are quite unlike most novel trilogies, and it will be extremely interesting to see how Garland attacks this project, and what things from the later novels he may decide to introduce early on.
Kicking things off with an almost clinical look at terror and the unknown, Annihilation plays like a biological horror, as a team of skilled researchers head out into the mysterious location called Area X, a place that inexplicably appeared one day and began growing. Seemingly nothing lives inside Area X, which causes problems for the team as they try to take the information gleaned from other expeditions and use it to their advantage. But only Area X has an advantage here. While the other novels open the story up a bit, Annihilation is a dread-filled anti-vacation into the unexplainable. It’s best to not even get into specifics.
The next two novels, Authority and Acceptance, are completely different from the first, and approach this sprawling mystery from different angles. Again, I can’t wait to see how Garland takes this on, and to find out if Paramount has plans to spin the entire trilogy on the big screen. I know it all depends on making money, but still, better to have a plan in the beginning when you’re not dealing with trite young adult nonsense.
I’m fully convinced that Garland will turn this into gold. A sometimes-novelist, Garland got his break when Danny Boyle directed an adaptation of his book The Beach, and then went on to work with Boyle again on both 28 Days Later… and Sunshine. He also wrote Oxide Pang Chun’s crime drama The Tesseract and Mark Romanek’s Never Let Me Go, both decent flicks with interesting stories. His last produced screenplay, other than Ex Machina, was for Pete Travis’ Dredd, a universe he has shown interest in returning to.
Has everyone else out there read the Southern Reach trilogy? If not, you’re doing sci-fi wrong.