The Hollywood Drama Around Annihilation Shows Why We Can't Have Smart Things

Image: Paramount
Image: Paramount

Annihilation looks like it has a lot going for it: Killer art direction and special effects; acclaimed writer-director Alex Garland (Ex Machina); and an all-star cast that includes Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, and Gina Rodriguez. But the power players behind the hotly anticipated scifi movie are still battling over what kind of release it should get.


An article in The Hollywood Reporter says that Paramount will still be distributing Annihilation in the United States, Canada, and China. But the studio is making a deal with Netflix that would see the internet company handling international distribution elsewhere. That deal also means Annihilation will hit the streaming service 17 days after its February 2018 theatrical debut.

It’s an unorthodox and fragmented release for a movie that a lot of people are looking forward to. Why have things shaken out this way? The Hollywood Reporter piece lays out a conflict between producers Scott Rudin and David Ellison, which flared up after a summer test screening:

The movie, which wrapped shooting July 2016, had a poor test screening this summer that sources say was the root of the conflict. After the screening, Ellison became concerned that the movie was “too intellectual” and “too complicated” and wanted changes made to make it appeal to a wider audience. They included making Portman’s character more sympathetic as well as tweaking the ending.

Rudin, who executive produced Machina, sided with Garland, defending the movie and refused to take notes. Rudin was able to hold his line, according to a source, because he has final cut.

It’s true that the movie business is facing challenges like never before, but if any genre of film should be able to get away with being complicated and intellectual, it’s science fiction. While it sounds like Annihilation will be making it out without damaging changes, it also sounds like this might be one of those instances where you’ll need to make sure you see it on a big screen right away.

We’ve contacted Paramount for comment and will update if we hear back.



Dr Emilio Lizardo

When I heard they were making this into a movie I also thought it was too weird, intellectual, complicated, and challenging for Hollywood. I was happy Garland was doing it because Ex Machina was all those things and was great. Now the studio seems to have realized that they bit off more than they could chew, they tried to change it, and they are dumping it in the traditional February wasteland after sitting on it for a year and a half. Usually I would say that the fact it is being released in February meant that it sucked, but now I am hoping it just means they don’t understand it. I don’t really care if it does well (although if it does, we will get more thoughtful SF), I just care if it is good.