The Scariest Creature in Annihilation Has a Really Cute Name

Illustration for article titled The Scariest Creature in iAnnihilation /iHas a Really Cute Name
Image: Paramount

You know the one I’m talking about.

Illustration for article titled The Scariest Creature in iAnnihilation /iHas a Really Cute Name
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Yeah, the bear, which serves as an uncanny representative of the strange mutations of the environment beyond the Shimmer. Talking to Entertainment Weekly, Annihilation’s visual effects supervisor Andew Whitehurst discussed the design of the creature and how, on the set, at least, it had a very cute name.

According to Whitehurst, the creature was an invention of Alex Garland’s screenplay, a physical manifestation of what Area X is capable of doing to the world. To create it, the VFX team mashed together a digital model of a person’s skull and a bear’s skull.

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“We looked at that and said, ‘That’s horrible, that’s really very visually striking and interesting, what can we do with that?’” Whitehurst said. “The rest of the creature, in terms of its physiognomy, is very bear-like, but in order to get the idea of the sickness, we had parts — particularly around the face, the skull, and flesh — atrophied in a way. We gave it alopecia and other skin complaints so the creature looked like it was suffering.” 

The poor animal’s name, however, was pulled from somewhere completely different. Turns out, Andrew Whitehurst was the VFX supervisor on another film with a digital bear, although this one was much sweet: Paddington.

“So this is my second bear movie,” Whitehurst told EW. “Paddington is a very nice bear, and Paddington Station [in London] is a very elegant Victorian station, so we thought, ‘What was a slightly rough-around-the-edges station?’”

Their answer: Homerton Station, the rail station from East London. So when you see the scary monster crying with the voices of its victims, say hi to Andrew Whitehurst’s dear friend Homerton.

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[Entertainment Weekly]

io9 Weekend Editor. Videogame writer at other places. Queer nerd girl.

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DISCUSSION

I was wondering whether the bear’s design included human features. The film gives you a very good look at its face, albeit under circumstances that are not exactly conducive to detached contemplation, but the blending of features is uncanny enough that it’s hard to tell what makes it look so unusual.

Anyway, this movie is full of smart stylistic choices. The wide lenses create a sightly unnatural sense of space, and during the scenes set in the labs Garland lets the wide-angle distortion show by putting flat surfaces and straight bannisters in the foreground. The short focal lengths isolate characters in the frame. When the heroine spoons with her husband, for instance, one of them is generally out of focus. Even before the characters enter “the shimmer” the film is full of windows, screens, and lens flares that create a dubious perspective. For instance, when the heroine and her husband are reunited during the early scenes, a drinking glass sits just in front of the place where their hands meet, to signal the distortion of their intimacy.

There is enough visual trickery in this film to sustain a whole series of posts like this one. Annihilation shows some remarkably strong technical filmmaking, especially for a second-time director. This has to be my favorite science-fiction film since Europa Report, and in many ways it is the movie that Prometheus ought to have been (although it is closer in style to the spiritual freakouts of Sunshine and The Fountain).  Totally brilliant, and I think its detractors are overlooking the emotional detail in the body language and shot compositions.