Not to spoil my Best Movies of 2014 So Far list whenever I get around to publishing it next month, but Alex Garland’s Ex Machina will definitely be on there. Probably pretty high, too. Garland’s directorial debut after a long career writing novels like The Beach and movies like 28 Days Later...Sunshine, and Dredd is an outstanding sci-fi thriller about an unsettling love triangle between a robot, her inventor, and his employee. It’s so damn good, it rocketed Garland up my personal list of favorite filmmakers, to the point where I’ll pretty much see whatever he does next no matter what it is.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Garland’s follow-up will be Annihilation, a “post-apocalyptic horror adventure” based on a novel by Jeff VanderMeer. Also according to THR, Garland already has his leading lady in mind, and it’s Thor and Black Swan star Natalie Portman. Here’s how they describe the plot:

The story sees a biologist, to be played by Portman, take part of a four-person expedition into Area X, a territory cutoff from civilization.  While there, she must deal with a mysterious contamination, disappearing colleagues, a deadly animal and a being known as the Crawler, all while searching for clues regarding her husband’s disappearance.

Portman is fine in the Thor franchise but generally doesn’t get to have too much fun; even though her Jane Foster’s a brilliant astrophysicist, she’s mostly there as a love interest and damsel-in-distress for the God of Thunder. But Portman is a vastly talented actress (not to mention an Oscar winner) who is more than capable of headlining her own franchise. VanderMeer’s novel is the first in a trilogy, so perhaps that’s what Annihilation could be for Portman. Even if the series begins and ends with just this movie, though, it’ll star Natalie Portman and be directed by Alex Garland. That, alone, is reason enough to get excited.

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