Thanks to the success of Ex Machina, fans of writer-director Alex Garland lined up for his newest film, Annihilation.
Based on the trailer, the cinematography from Rob Hardy and the visual effects from Andrew Whitehurst looked parallel to the groundbreaking work in Avatar or the more recent Valerian movie.
But, there’s so much more to the Natalie Portman sci-fi thriller.
After seeing the movie, some fans may walk out unimpressed. The story was great and visuals were amazing, but it felt like a prequel to something like this film (contains spoiler).
However, the reason that movies like Ex Machina and Annihilation are important (and may even deserve two viewings) is based on realism.
Back when Steven Spielberg made the futuristic, Tom Cruise-driven sci-fi adventure flick Minority Reporter, he too used top scientists to gauge the future.
This way, instead of guessing what might happen in a few hundred years, the movie from author Philip K. Dick could be based fifty years in the future, making it semi-realistic for fans (this is also true of Black Mirror).
Likewise, writer-director Alex Garland owes a big chunk of his success to Doctor Adam Rutherford, a British geneticist who advises Garland on his storylines.
“I only answer the phone to about three people,” Rutherford said. “One of them is my wife, one of them is my agent, and the third is Alex Garland.”
Together, their creative work is both visionary and simple. Honestly, it’s a typical practice for a screenwriter to interview a police officer about a cop movie, but this sense of realism is often overlooked in science fiction. Rutherford’s input on gene theory and mutating plants makes the film enjoyable but also accurate.
“There isn’t a line in Annihilation or Ex Machina that isn’t based on decades of research and scientific understanding,” said Garland. “Even if it’s just one line of dialogue, it’s back up.”
On the surface, this might sound a little too involved, but the theory behind it is the same reason Tom Cruise does his own stunts or why Matt Damon and Keanu Reeves learned how to fight and shoot.
Movies need to feel real because audiences are smarter than ever before. If that's not enough, films matter and they always will.