It’s two days until the release of Alex Garland’s directorial debut and there a lot of questions buzzing around in regards to what we can expect. With Garland at the helm, both writing and directing, violence and some quirks are obvious contenders, but in regards to narrative, critical reception and where next this will lead the indie writer – is anyone;s guess. A small budget sci-fi could potentially hold issues but from trailers, behind-the-scenes footage, and stills, Ex Machina looks as glossy as a $165m blockbuster – Interstellar back away. As an ode to Garland at this pivotal point in his career, lets take a look back at his journey in film thus far. Writer of three novels and five screenplays, Garland has also produced and now – the big one – turned his hand to directing. If his directorial style is anything like his writing ability then we may well be in for a treat. You guessed it, I’m a fan. Maybe super fan? You get the gist. Anywho, let’s get down to the interesting stuff.
Garland wrote his debut novel in 1996 and swiftly became recognised as a cult success. Lifting the lid on the dark underbelly of traveling and addressing contemporary issues, The Beach became ‘Generation X’s first great novel.‘ Many critics compared the book to an array of war movies and novels such as Lord of the Flies and Heart of Darkness, and Garland’s career as a writer took off pretty swiftly from there. (Ahem, I have read the book three times…seriously, if you haven’t, you need too.). The Beach was adapted in 2001 by friend Danny Boyle and, rather surprisingly, the director did his own thing in regards to source material. While Hodge’s screenplay stuck (for the most part) to Garland’s writing, Boyle adopted a mainstream tone and nearly massacred the narrative. Boyle, we love you, but why? Changing the protagonist Richard from English to American was a decision obviously made to appeal to a Western audience and the lack of half of the book within the plot is sorely missed throughout. Certainly not terrible, but if you like the book you’ll struggle with the film.
In 1998 came Garland’s second contribution to the world of literature and this time focused on the lives of several characters all caught in interweaving stories. A non-linear book, critical reception for The Tesseract was positive and again the writers work was adapted for film. Directed by Oxide Pang (I’m not sure either) the locale was changed from Manila to Bangkok and starred Jonathan Rhys Meyers as protagonist Sean. The film wasn’t a major success and has disappeared into relative obscurity, with Garland having little in the way of connection to the adaptation. 2004 saw Garland’s third (and currently last) novel with The Coma. Exploring the connection between the physical and the mental, the book was illustrated by Garland’s father (aww) and became a play which debuted at Edinburgh Fringe. If we can take anything away from the authors career it would be this – people like to take his work and transform it for a different platform. While not always adapted successfully, these examples exemplifiy the industries interest in Garland’s provocative writing style and this helped with the writer’s transition over to features.
Garland has written five screenplays, two of which were penned for Boyle productions (28 Days Later and Sunshine). He also co-produced the formers follow up 28 Weeks Later (the first is a fantastic example of British film-making, and writing, at its very best). Further to this he produced and wrote the screenplay for adapted dystopian drama Never Let Me Go, which received critical acclaim (if you plan on watching, bring tissues. Seriously.). Garland’s career in film, and the reception he has received during this time, reiterates that he should be the man in charge. While The Beach made a profit at the Box Office it was critically panned, and The Tesseract is pretty much unknown whereas the contributions made from Garland are often heralded – see where I’m going with this? The man’s work should not be messed with.
Next comes Ex Machina, a low-budget sci-fi that we all know will be so much more then a low-budget sci-fi. Written and directed by Garland the film explores artificial intelligence in a contemporary age where technology is at the fingertips of pretty much everyone. Oscar Isaac, after working with the director, suggested he could direct Star Wars – I would say that’s promising, right?