Alex Garland is one of the last masters of science fiction

Most writers and directors do not achieve the status of public recognition that they often deserve. Although filmmakers gain fame from their critical and financial success in their careers, some filmmakers will achieve success but not necessarily recognition. The Marvel movies are a great example of this. Yes, many fans know who James Gunn and the Russo Brothers are, but if asked who wrote and directed Thor: The Dark World Where Captain Marvell, many fans would probably struggle to know exactly who made these films.


But some filmmakers find themselves cult, like Zack Snyder and those who want to restore the Snyderverse, or Denis Villeneuve and those who particularly appreciated his blade runner next or Dunes adaptation. Even the previously mentioned brothers James Gunn and Russo have nothing more than a cult following compared to famous filmmakers Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino or Christopher Nolan. A filmmaker who has also found a cult following and perhaps deserves more recognition also deals in hard sci-fi like Nolan: Alex Garland.

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Garland started out as a novelist with novels The Tesseract, The comaand his mega hit The beach which was later adapted into a film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by Danny Boyle. Garland even wrote extremely well-known video games and movie scripts like 28 days later and Sunshine, both also directed by longtime collaborator Danny Boyle. He would eventually move on to writing and directing his own films. Garland’s first film was Ex-Machinafor which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

nathan caleb and ava

So far, all but one of Garland’s directors have been sci-fi movies and/or shows, with Ex-Machina, Annihilationand its FX series Developers. Although his movies are sci-fi, they aren’t the most commonly seen soft sci-fi at the box office. His films are largely hard science fiction with a lot of emphasis on real science playing a major role in how he tells his story. But what makes its hard sci-fi so compelling is that it’s not on display for most of the film.

It’s actually quite the opposite, with his movies mostly spending screen time with the characters exploring instead of talking. But when Garland does her show, it’s not just to talk to the public. It is used to tell the audience who these characters are through the way they communicate with each other.

A good example of this is found in Ex-Machina when Caleb played by Domhnall Gleeson and Nathan played by Oscar Isaac talk to each other about Caleb’s experience with Ava played by Alicia Vikander. Audiences get a lot of information about what’s happening on screen, but they also learn what kind of people Caleb and Nathan are with how each of them talks about the science behind Ava and even Ava herself- same. Caleb is very technical and enthusiastic about everything that happens, while Nathan wants simple answers and is very methodical about what he wants. The communication between the two tells the audience what’s going on, but also gives the audience enough information to show them what they can expect from the two characters personality-wise.

But what is perhaps more appealing to audiences are the unique, quirky, and often bizarre storylines found in his films. Garland so adeptly creates complex films with so much science going on while weaving in other genres like horror, drama, thriller, and even psychedelia. Although Annihilation is an adaptation of a novel by Jeff Vandermeer, it is still a film by Garland. Many have even considered Vandermeer Annihilation as impossible to adapt, but yet Garland found a way to do it.

eco-horror annihilation

Garland even said the movie is less of a direct adaptation of a book and more of a dream adaptation of the book. Even though the book was considered too weird to be adapted, Garland’s eye for clever sci-fi took that and not only made it work, but made it where the weird didn’t go. banal at the end. Garland allows the film to develop with a weird and bizarre escalation as the film progresses.

Garland has the ability to patiently untangle the story in so many ways, from slowly revealing character traits to patiently unraveling the science of what’s happening on screen. It creates a tension with the audience that few sci-fi movies have more. This creates a guessing game as the film progresses and makes guessing the rest of the film quite difficult. As the film progresses, Garland provides enough science, intrigue, character traits, and bizarre imagery to keep the audience going. And that’s why Garland is such an exciting filmmaker to watch. Not only is he smart, he’s unpredictable and that in itself is worth the price of admission.

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