The first official image from the Annihilation movie has finally arrived, and it’s unsurprisingly a little creepy. We’ve been anticipating this one for quite some time now—it marks Ex Machina writer/director Alex Garland’s follow-up to that incredible sci-fi film, and it’s an adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer’s terrifying eco-horror novel of the same name, which itself is the first in a trilogy of books. Some behind-the-scenes snaps surfaced on Instagram last summer, but now the first official image has been unveiled for all to see.
The story of Annihilation follows the expedition of four women who are sent into the mysterious “Area X”, a portion of land in the United States that has been secretly quarantined due to abnormal activity. They are the twelfth expedition sent into Area X on behalf of the mysterious Southern Reach organization. The second expedition ended in mass suicide, the third in a hail of gunfire as the members turned on one another, and the eleventh expedition returned as shells of their former selves, all dying of cancer shortly after coming back.
Natalie Portman leads the cast as the scientist, who in the film is named Lena (in the book the characters have no names). Here we see her looking at a strange alligator in Area X, which is the group’s first tangible encounter with something odd—Garland says the alligator “has physical elements to it that should not belong on an alligator.”
Speaking to EW, which debuted the image, Garland says he wanted to maintain the beauty of Vander Meer’s book, even when the story gets incredibly grim and dark. But while Annihilation kicks off a trilogy, he says he approached this very much as a standalone movie:
“I did once work on a film called Dredd, which I imagined to be the first part of a trilogy,” says Garland. “But it’s not something I like doing. I’d rather work on a story that I felt was self-contained rather than one that sort of had a ‘dot-dot-dot’ at the end. I think that provokes a sort of instant, understandable, cynicism. We sense the money grab and I feel that pollutes the story. So, right from the get-go, I did not think of this as being part of a trilogy; I thought of it as being just a single, self-contained movie. If other people wanted to do that, that would be fine. That’s none of my business. But from my point of view, it’s just one.”
Check out the debut Annihilation image below. The Paramount and Skydance film will open in theaters on February 23, 2018 and also stars Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez, and Oscar Isaac.