Thrillist: Have you been able to get that four-note Annihilation "alien" cue out of your head, or is that still an earworm for you?
Alex Garland: Yeah, that was fantastic! In a way, I get this weird amnesia about everything I've worked on, but that theme music, that was more persistent than a lot of things. They really knocked it out of the park with the score. Really unbelievably gifted and open-minded composers.
Have you experienced different reactions about the adaptation from readers of the book than from people who haven't read the book?
Garland: I haven't really seen that. In terms of people who've read the book or not, whether there's a kind of uniformity of response between those two groups, no, honestly not. What I did see were pieces that were kind of interpretations of the film in terms of the arguments within it, in terms of self-destruction and stuff like that. I read a bunch of pieces about that. That's been really interesting, and kind of a relief, in a funny kind of way.
Why? Were you worried that people might not have picked up on that particular theme?
Garland: Oh, yeah. Exactly. You never know when you put something out there what of the intention will land. [Sighs] It's like you're relieved that the work that everyone put into it has achieved the intention that it was supposed to have. At least for someone, you know? You never know. It's this big moment where you're sort of holding your breath, wondering, "Does any of this make sense for anybody? Is anyone seeing these allusions or parallels or references? Does it cohere into meaning? Or does it just seem like random stuff?"
If someone comes up with a different interpretation, I don't go, "That's wrong." I go, "That's interesting." I haven't read everything, so I don't know, but there were a couple of things that I noticed weren't getting noticed, perhaps because they were a bit too obscure. But for the most part, I was kind of freaked out at the precision and the accuracy of the interpretations. I was kind of like, "Whoa! That was not what I was expecting." I was kind of blown away, actually, by the way that the interpretations correlated with the intention.
Regarding self-destruction, both physical and psychological?
Garland: The other thing I noticed, the thing I found sort of troubling was that there was one way of reading it that the people who went into the Shimmer were self-destructive, or had self-destructive tendencies particular to them. And my intention was more along the lines of the reason everyone in there is self-destructive, or that these people happen to be self-destructive, is because everybody is self-destructive. Any group of people going in there would be dealing with the same thing, if you see what I mean? It wasn't about a specific group. It was more about a general point. But you know what? I have my own interpretation or thoughts about what's going on, and if other people don't share it, or if they have their own, I'm completely cool with that. It doesn't bother me.
I've also seen some theories regarding Plato's Cave...
Garland: Plato's Cave is a deliberate allusion in Ex Machina. I'm not aware of it being one in Annihilation.
Do you feel like anything from the Annihilation universe you've built exists in the same universe as Ex Machina?
Garland: Oh, I don't see them as in the same world. There's no kind of cross-pollination in my head at all. Not really. When I work on something, I then kind of stop thinking about it when it's done. I'm fond of Ex Machina, but it's kind of a distant memory. It doesn't feel alive in me, if you know what I mean?