Oh, Annihilation, you big, beautiful, crazy beast. Where do I start with you?
So I read the novel Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer earlier this year, and I really liked it. It was one of the best books I had read in a long time. And one of the reasons I read it was I wanted to try to get through it before I saw the upcoming film.
As I was reading it I was thinking, man, this would be a really hard book to adapt. And then, as I watched the trailers for the film, as I was also reading the book, I thought, wow, that actually doesn’t look much like the movie. Those two things made me kind of nervous about seeing the film. But I saw it anyway.
About halfway through watching the film, I found myself thinking, it seems like this script was written by someone who had only ever read the back cover blurb of the novel and never read the novel itself. The film has all the basic elements of the book, but very, very, very few of the specifics.
Later googling would reveal that director and writer Alex Garland wrote the screenplay without going back and rereading the novel, describing his process as something like writing the script as if it were a dream of reading the novel. Which is obviously some kind of artsy mumbo-jumbo, but whatever. If that’s how he wants to write a screenplay, he can go ahead and do that.
Because you know? It’s a really fucking good movie. It’s just a movie that doesn’t have very much to do with the book that it’s based on.
This honestly took me awhile to come to terms with in my head, because I liked both of them so much, and it seemed like kind of a disservice to the other to like its opposite. But then I realized this is pretty much how I feel about The Shining — that both book and movie are pretty great, even though neither has very much to do with the other — and all of sudden I felt okay about it all.
So yeah, all of that was to say, this was actually a really good movie. Like really good. And if you’ve read the book, don’t worry. Just don’t come here expecting to see that movie. Just think of this is a completely different, but slightly similar movie. Then you’ll have a good time.