There are plenty of reasons to be excited for Annihilation, the upcoming adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer’s 2014 novel. First off, it’s Alex Garland‘s latest project since Ex Machina. Second, the book is great, full of eerie, enchanting horrors. And third, it’s a sci-fi film led by four women, played by four fantastic actresses. This movie can’t get in my eyeballs soon enough, but luckily today brings the first look at Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, and Gina Rodriguez in the film.

The film follows four women, including Jennifer Jason Leigh’s anthropologist, on an expedition into a mysterious island known as Area X. Entertainment Weekly debuted the first official photo from Garland’s film, which shows Portman’s biologist named Lena – a notable digression from the books, in which none of the characters’ names are disclosed. Portman pops her head inside of the head of an alligator while Rodriguez’s anthropologist holds the head open (we know those are her arms since she said so on Twitter), and Thompson’s surveyor looks on from the background:

Why, exactly, does Portman’s scientist look so shocked at what she sees? Well in this mysterious landscape, the laws of physics and nature don’t function they way they should, and there’s something noticably odd about the creature. “It is their first tangible encounter with something strange,” Garland told EW. “The alligator has physical elements to it that should not belong on an alligator. They’re starting to get their heads around how weird the place is.”

Garland’s script includes some changes from the book, but fans of the novel need not be worried; VanderMeer revealed a few months back that he’s seen the film and called it “mind-blowing, extremely beautiful [and] extremely horrific.” (Oh, heck yes.) He also said it’s even more surreal than the novel. While we’ll have to wait until February 23 of next year for Annihilation to hits theaters, that’s plenty of time for those who haven’t picked up the book to do. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

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