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Mild SPOILERS for Annihilation ahead!
Annihilation director Alex Garland has detailed a 10-minute deleted scene he removed from the movie. Annihilation is based on the book of the same name by author Jeff VanderMeer, which is part of a trilogy known as Southern Reach. Alex Garland (Ex Machina) adapted the novel, which follows a team of female scientists who cross over into Area X – a mysterious disaster zone with plant and animal mutations.
While Annihilation is based on the first book in a trilogy, Garland has already stated he has “zero plans” for making any sequels. The movie has already received critical praise for both its filmmaking and the performances, including Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez, Oscar Isaac and Jennifer Jason Leigh.
Now in a new interview with Collider, writer/director Garland has detailed an elaborate deleted scene where Portman’s character sees the shimmer – the border of Area X – for the first time. The scene plays out much differently in the final edit, which is the result of Garland deciding the way he’d originally shot the reveal didn’t work.
Essentially what happens in the sequence is that Natalie Portman, quite early on in the film is locked in a sort of chamber where she first meets Dr. Ventress and when Ventress leaves, Natalie’s character Lena is stuck there and she escapes from that chamber and knocks out a guard, takes his gun, shoots her way through a glass door, makes her way through the facility and finally busts out and sees the shimmer for the first time. It created a problem that her character goes from a state of real adversity with this corporation to then being taken on a mission to this place, and it’s a weird U-turn. And actually, it made more sense that she says I want to see this thing, and Ventress says OK and takes her to see it.
Annihilation Shimmer Annihilation Director Reveals 10 Minute Sequence He Cut
Luckily, Garland didn’t have to reshoot anything to make the scene work, and thanks to some seamless edits, the original footage plays out in a different way.
We didn’t reshoot anything, amazingly, it’s the kind of stuff that you can achieve in the edit. You use the dialogue, you do a hard cut, you take a little bit of film where she’s walking in her escape but she’s slowed down, she’s not running at that point, she’s walking and you use that bit, you do another hard cut to her stepping out and seeing the shimmer for the first time.
While Annihilation has received near universal praise, the film has also received attention for its unusual release strategy. Paramount released the film in the U.S., Canada and China, but Netflix will release it to the rest of the world – a mere 17 days after the initial cinema release. This was the result of creative disagreements between producers Scott Rudin and David Ellison. Ellison wanted to re-edit the movie following poor test scores, while Rudin exercised his final cut privileges and refused to change it. Paramount was apparently worried Annihilation was “too brainy” for mainstream audiences, leading to the Netflix distribution deal.
The studio is still reeling after a poor 2017 at the box-office, where movies like Ghost In The Shell and mother! failed to connect with audiences. Apparently, the studio was also concerned they had a dud with The Cloverfield Paradox, which led to a deal with Netflix to buy the movie off them and launch a surprise release at the beginning of February. While Paradox has received mixed reviews, some are already calling Annihilation a masterpiece.