Modern science fiction has been greatly influenced by George Lucas. It’s become this big grand production of epic proportions. New age auteur Darren Aronofsky (Pi, Requiem for a Dream) has dared to scale back the genre, falling more in tune with Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Oddity, making The Fountain, starring Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz one of the more intriguing sci-fi films in recent years.
The base story of The Fountain is about Tommy and Izzy Creo (Jackman and Weisz, respectively). Tommy is a contemporary research scientist trying to figure out the cure for cancer, which his wife Izzy has. He believes he has found it in an ancient Central American tree. Meanwhile Izzy is finishing her novel set in 1500 Spain about Queen Isabel, who sends Conquistador Tomas on a mission to find the tree of life in New Spain (Central America). The third portion of the story is set in 2500, where Tommy has lived for the past 500 and is waiting for the tree to enter a nebula and be destroyed.
I could spend the entire review trying to explain the plot, but it’s too intricate to do so. Jackman is still trying to prove his worth and talent as an actor to the general film going public, and after this and The Prestige from earlier this year, I don’t think he has anything left to prove. He’s a very capable actor, and his scenes as present day Tommy were some of the most touching I’ve ever seen in a sci-fi film. Weisz continues to push herself as an actress, taking on challenging or different roles than what she could take, and thus stretching her dramatic range, making her that much more appealing as an actress.
Aronofsky is of the new generation of filmmaking, the millennial generation. Where Kevin Smith, Quentin Tarantino and David Fincher led the pack in the 90’s, Aronofsky is in the company of Christopher Nolan and Richard Kelly on the front lines of 21st century filmmaking. He retools a genre that’s become known for being bombastic, goofy and out there. He evokes drama and emotion from the genre and it’s simply moving. I can’t wait to see more of his work
The primary reason Aronofsky is so engaging as a filmmaker is his visual style. It’s not enough for him to present a beautiful and wondrous tale; he does so in a beautiful and wondrous way. The scenes set in the future take place in space in this sort of, bubble. The tree and some of the surrounding earth is floating in a bubble towards the nebula that was believed by the Mayans to be the afterlife. It’s one of the most beautiful effects created. The Queens palace in the 1500 set scenes is just as stunning. The room was lit by an amazing series of suspended candles, and it provides some of the most aesthetically pleasing visuals I’ve seen all year.
Aronofsky’s gift for making an intriguing web of a film is a curse upon his talent that sometimes he gets so far into his own world that he forgets that the audience isn’t inside his head with him. The futuristic scenes aren’t made clear in their narrative intentions till about halfway through the film, confounding the audience to their impact on the story. But it’s a treat to look at, so you almost don’t even mind.
It’s a welcome step outside the generic mainstream, which I can only assume is Aronofsky’s intention.