Warning! The following contains MAJOR SPOILERS for Annihilation, as well as touching on Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach Trilogy. If you haven't yet explored the mysteries of The Shimmer, come back once you've seen it.
Annihilation just arrived in theaters and we are still processing the weirdness, horror and beauty of Alex Garland's mind-bending film. It's not often that you get science fiction that challenges the viewer like this, and we're naturally curious to see more of The Shimmer on screen. But how exactly this world could continue is up in the air. For those unaware, Annihilation is based on a novel of the same name by author Jeff VanderMeer and it is the first part of his Southern Reach Trilogy. The entire trilogy was acquired by Paramount, but director Alex Garland has previously stated that he would not be helming any potential sequel. But that doesn't mean that the story can't continue.
Like Inception, Blade Runner and many of the genre's most memorable classics, Annihilation provides no easy answers, leaving the viewer with an unnerving and ambiguous ending. Of all the many differences between Jeff VanderMeer's novel and Alex Garland's film, the ending is one of the big ones. In the novel, Lena sets off from The Lighthouse towards an island off the coast, in search of her husband, but Area X and the veil of eco-horror enveloping it remains. In the film, Lena (Natalie Portman) faces her duplicate and defeats it, destroying The Lighthouse and the source of The Shimmer in the process. Lena returns to the Southern Reach and something that is not her husband but some part of The Shimmer remains inside of her. This ending leaves a far less obvious path forward than the novel but it still opens up some compelling possibilities.
So let's take a look at the ways an Annihilation sequel could continue to diverge from the books and forge a new path.
Break from the Books
There are several reasons why the books do not provide a good template for any continuation of the Annihilation franchise. Upfront, it is worth noting that the second and third books aren't nearly as beloved as the spectacular first one, and they diverge drastically from the atmospheric, waking nightmare of Annihilation. The second novel, Authority, focuses on the political maneuvering of those at the Southern Reach organization. The third novel, Acceptance, returns to Area X during the winter but focuses more on revealing the past of the area. These approaches would not work for a sequel film because of how Alex Garland's film has already diverged from the source material. The Southern Reach organization was not portrayed to be nearly as clandestine or manipulative in the film, and watching office politics as a follow-up to a surreal eco-horror film doesn't feel like the right way to go. There is also the fact that The Shimmer's hold over the area was seemingly lifted at the end of the film, rendering future expeditions or investigations of this area rather moot.
Despite the divergence from Jeff VanderMeer's novel, the film actually opens up new and interesting possibilities for a sequel that can take the Annihilation franchise in some unexpected directions.