Alex Garland tells us why he loves to “subvert” the sci-fi genre, won’t make VR films and can’t get enough of video games.
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With “Ex Machina,” writer and director Alex Garland delivered a complex, thought-provoking sci-fi thriller that explored artificial intelligence, robots and what it means to be human.
With “Annihilation,” which opens in US theaters Friday, he aims to take us on an even more mind-bending journey in a sci-fi fantasy laced with horror.
I think I just figured that visit this page it was all beyond me
This time, a crew of scientists led by biologist Lena (Natalie Portman) is on a quest to find the source of an unexplained alien phenomenon called “The Shimmer.” Fans of Jeff VanderMeer’s best-selling novel will note that the book and movie diverge. That’s something Garland said he needed to do, partly because he likes “subverting” genres such as thrillers and sci-fi but also because he needed to take a completely different approach to bring his vision of VanderMeer’s very “original” story to life.
Sci-fi horror “Annihilation” follows a group of scientists who enter a mysterious quarantined zone where nature has mutated in unexpected ways.
“It was the experience of reading the book that felt most relevant,” Garland said in an interview at CNET headquarters in San Francisco on Feb. 8. “Instead of going back and rereading it and underlining passages, I did an adaptation from my experience of having read it . I thought that that was a way to be faithful to the thing that I experienced the most strongly, which was its dream-like nature.”
In a wide-ranging interview, Garland, an avid video gamer who has written story lines for several games, talked about his never-made screenplay for a movie based on the popular game Halo. He explained why he thinks it’s important to take a “measured” approach to new technologies such as AI rather than fear them, and he said he believes streaming services are becoming a great medium for “morally complex stories.”
Garland also talked about why he sees virtual reality as a great application for the video games he loves, but a challenging one for filmmakers. “I don’t know how to direct the gaze in . VR, which you do in film easily with lighting and focus,” he said. “But mainly I’m not sure how you move the camera without making people want to throw up or take the [VR] helmet off.”
Q: It’s fair to say you spent most of the past two decades working in sci-fi, with stories that play off tech and science. But I read you got into science in your 20s on your own rather than studying it in school. Garland: When I was at school, I struggled. We got streamed into slow groups and fast groups and stuff like that. And some of things, certainly things like mathematics, in fact, pretty much everything, I was in the slow group. [laughs]
When it came to science with physics and biology and chemistry, I wasn’t able to take any of them as exams because my performance wasn’t up to it. And in many respects, it is all beyond me, except that as a lay person I can be interested in it.
She’s also co-host of the I’m So Obsessed podcast
In my 20s, I began to hear things that related to science, such as “The faster you go, the slower time passes.” That kind of thing puzzled me. It didn’t fit with any sense of time that I had. And so I started reading, but really, as an uneducated lay person. And that never really stopped. I’m now 47, and I’ve been trying to get my head around the collapse of wave function, or whatever, as best I can, which isn’t very much. But I understand why it’s interesting.