Warning! Spoilers to follow for Annihilation. Come back later if you haven't seen it yet.
With hints of Kubrick and Tarkovsky, Alex Garland's Annihilation is a serious mind-trip of a movie. It has a high concept plot -- a group of scientists enter a mysterious zone to discover the origins of a strange phenomenon -- but by the end of the story it successfully bends your brain into a pretzel. In a purposeful way, it's a movie that is meant to inspire debate about its meanings and themes, but as I recently learned from the writer/director, audiences will get a lot more out of the movie on a second viewing:
This was just one example that Alex Garland tossed out when I had the chance to speak with him and Annihilation star Oscar Isaac earlier this month during the film's Los Angeles press day. I asked the two men if the movie was specifically designed so that audiences will get new readings in repeat viewings, and Garland said that that is absolutely the case -- adding that there are things that movie-goers won't notice until the second go-round.
After discussing the conversation between Lena (Natalie Portman) and Daniel (David Gyasi) at Johns Hopkins at the start of the film, Alex Garland namedropped two more little mind-blowers that you may not have seen in Annihilation this past weekend:
Having now seen Annihilation a second time personally, I can confirm that these are two very cool details. For starters, the tattoo that Oscar Isaac's Kane has on his chest is a bear (y'know, the creature in the movie that screams like a human and winds up tearing Anya's face off). Also, the house that they discover at the end of the second act -- the one with all of the flower people -- has an interior that looks exactly like Lena's house.
Oscar Isaac also offered his thoughts on the question, comparing the movie to his previous collaboration with Alex Garland: 2015's Ex Machina. He pointed out that not only are there little plot threads and Easter eggs in the film, but that there are certain character moments that have a different kind of emotional resonance when you understand the larger context in which the movie puts them. Said Isaac,
As a person who absolutely loved Annihilation, I was excited to return to the film after getting this recommendation from Alex Garland and Oscar Isaac, and I did not leave disappointed. The movie is a truly fascinating piece of work, and I'd highly recommend returning to it when given the opportunity.