Sometimes cinematic adaptations are conversations with source material rather than direct representations. No recent film more exemplifies this idea than Alex Garland’s bold, metaphysical and just plain weird “Annihilation,” adapted from Jeff VanderMeer’s book, the first in his “Southern Reach” trilogy. The result is a deeply challenging, big budget, female-driven sci-fi film, which begs a question — how did this get made? Films as singularly adventurous as this don’t come around often.
VanderMeer’s book is obtuse, meditative, mysterious and transfixing. It suggests and hints at possibilities that are far greater and wilder than the characters encounter in the plot, requiring the reader to make those connections, to fill in the gaps. Garland, who adapted the screenplay, takes the premise, characters and larger ideas of VanderMeer’s book, and interprets them in his own story to bring an almost unfilmable novel to the big screen as a sci-fi epic.
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