'Ex Machina' director sends Natalie Portman into Area X in first 'Annihilation' trailer

There’s been no shortage of buzz surrounding director Alex Garland’s follow-up to his 2015 sci-fi hit Ex Machina, and now we have our first look at the upcoming film with the release of the official Annihilation trailer.

Garland wrote and directed the film, which is an adaptation of the first book in novelist Jeff VanderMeer’s critically acclaimed “Southern Reach” trilogy. The film casts Academy Award winner Natalie Portman (Black Swan) as a biologist exploring a strange otherworldly anomaly known as Area X.

Along with Portman as the exploration team’s biologist (known simply as “The Biologist”), the film’s cast also includes Academy Award nominee Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight) as The Psychologist, Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin) as The Anthropologist, Tessa Thompson (Creed) as The Surveyor, and Oscar Isaac (Ex MachinaStar Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens) as The Biologist’s husband.

Described as a “gothic sci-fi horror” tale, Annihilation was first published in February 2014, and was followed by two sequels: Authority in May 2014 and Acceptance in September 2014. The first chapter in the trilogy is narrated by The Biologist and chronicles her experience as a member of the 12th expedition into Area X, which includes four female scientists of various disciplines. Previous expeditions all ended in tragedy, with the members of the second expedition committing suicide, the members of the third expedition shooting each other in fits of rage, and the members of the most recent expedition — which included the biologist’s husband — returning with little memory of their past lives before dying of an aggressive cancer shortly thereafter.

Tasked with cataloging everything they encounter in Area X — including the effects of the region on their fellow team members — the 12th expedition discovers something far beyond what any of them could have anticipated.

Subsequent installments of the trilogy chronicle the events leading up to and following the 12th expedition, as the mysterious organization overseeing exploration of Area X must grapple with the data accumulated through the expeditions.

According to Garland, his adaptation of Annihilation will be a stand-alone movie instead of a trilogy, and will encapsulate the story in one film.

Annihilation is scheduled to hit theaters February 23, 2018.