When Alex Garland’s Annihilation opens Friday, it will be the end of a long journey for the film. It began way back in 2013 when Paramount bought the movie rights to Jeff VanderMeer’s book and its sequels, before they were even published. io9 has been covering Annihilation since the very beginning, and we thought it might be fun to take a trip down memory lane.
It began on March 28, 2013, when news broke that the movie rights to Jeff VanderMeer’s upcoming book series, The Southern Reach Trilogy, had been purchased. At the time, we had only a general idea of the story and a knowledge that the first book, Annihilation, would be published in February 2014.
February 11, 2014, a week after the book’s publication, io9 ran the full first chapter for fans to read. It was the beginning of a very close relationship between the site and the book.
A few weeks after its release, io9 co-founder Annalee Newitz wrote a review of the book which she said “will make you believe in the power of science mysteries again.” Yup, we were fans.
Giving people a few months to dig into the dense text, on April 9, 2014, io9 held a book club to discuss the novel. With about 100 comments, it went fairly well.
Just a week after that, on April 14, 2014, VanderMeer himself visited the io9 team to answer questions about the book itself. As expected with a book seeped in mystery, he didn’t give out any definitive answers, but he did hint at his inspirations, and then raise some more questions.
Oh May 6, 2014, hot on the heels of the first book, the second piece in the trilogy, Authority, was released. Two days later, io9 exclusively reprinted the book’s opening chapter.
A few months later, we reviewed that book, too.
Several months later, Paramount found someone who was interested in making a film out of the books they’d purchased the year before. His name? Alex Garland. And at the time, Halloween 2014, he’d written a bunch of solid movies (Never Let Me Go, 28 Days Later, Sunshine, Dredd) but only directed one himself—a movie that would come out in the UK a few months later, called Ex Machina.
While promoting Ex Machina in July 2015, io9's other co-founder, Charlie Jane Anders, talked to Garland about his approach to the adaptation. At the time, he already knew his vision of the novel wasn’t going to be 100 percent consistent with the novel.
By January 6, 2016, Garland had been prepping Annihilation for about a year, and his first cast members were revealed, including Natalie Portman, Gina Rodriguez, and Tessa Thompson.
A few months later, a certain X-Wing fighter joined the cast.
During filming, several members of the Annihilation cast and crew began posting photos on their social media. On July 7, 2016, we rounded them up.
Garland spent the rest of 2016 working on the film. The first time anyone from the outside world saw actual footage was at the theatrical exhibitor convention, CinemaCon, on March 29, 2017, almost exactly four years after the first news of the movie was released. We were there and here’s our description of the footage.
Several more months passed, work on the film continued, and then, finally, the first trailer was unleashed on September 27, 2017.
Hot off that trailer, Paramount quietly but shockingly sold the rights to Annihilation in several international markets to Netflix, explaining that the film was “too intellectual” and “too complicated” for mass audiences. The film is still getting a theatrical release in the United States, though.
On the occasion of the film’s second trailer, we talked to Garland about the making of the movie, as well as the aforementioned controversy. He wasn’t happy about it, but he understood.
In that same round of interviews, Garland revealed that he was unaware two of the main characters in the book were people of color, and that he cast Natalie Portman and Jennifer Jason Leigh.
A few months pass and the controversy came up again. This time, though, the actresses in question agreed that it was a mistake.
Then, finally, we saw the movie! Yesterday we posted our review:
And it rules. It’s not the book, that’s for sure, but it gives the book a deeper, more satisfying spin.
We here at io9 cover lots of movies, both the lead-up to their release but as well as what happens afterwards. But with Annihilation, it was different. It’s not Star Wars or The Avengers, but it’s a near-perfect blend of pure science fiction, fantasy, mystery, and action rolled into one. So it should be no surprise that we’ve been following it so closely for so long.