Geoffrey Long
Tip of the Quill: Archives
Graphic novel of The Fountain v.1, film of The Fountain v.2
Well, this is a form of transmedia I hadn't considered before. We film geeks have been following Darren Arnofsky's latest project The Fountain ever since his last film wrapped. The story sounds amazing, following explorers pursuing the Fountain of Youth, only cycling through three iterations: first in conquistador-era Spain, second in the modern day, and third in the far-flung future. It's exactly the kind of bizarre dark art you'd expect from the man behind Pi and Requiem for a Dream – the only trouble is, the poor film's been stuck in developmental hell almost as long as Terry Gilliam's Don Quixote. (Okay, maybe not that long, but you get the idea.) First Brad Pitt was supposed to star, but then he dropped out and had to be replaced with Hugh Jackman. Then the project lost its funding, and the script had to be hauled in for a major cost-saving rewrite. Now the principal photography has finally wrapped but they're still in post-production, which has the studio heads tearing their hair out because they'd hoped to get it out in time for this year's Oscar noms. Oy. For more ugly details (and a bizarre exchange about infant children and Steve Gaghan's Syriana, check out this recent AICN interview. Anyway, all is not lost for us fans. Arnofsky has partnered with DC's Vertigo comics to release an oversized hardcover graphic novel of the original story. Illustrated by Kent Williams, who some folks may know for his Destiny: A Chronicle of Deaths Foretold which was based on Neil Gaiman's The Sandman, this monster clocks in at 176 pages with a $40 price tag, which is made all the more winceworthy by its being shipped in shrinkwrap, preventing potential buyers from flipping through and evaluating its quality in the shops. Luckily, DC has answered this criticism with a 14-page preview PDF available for free download on their site. DC describes the story and edition as follows:
...The Fountain crisscrosses through three distinct time periods: 1535, during an ancient Mayan war; the present day, following one doctor's desperate search for the cure for cancer; and the far future through the vast exotic reaches of space. Interweaving these three periods, The Fountain follows Tomas -- warrior, doctor, explorer -- as he feverishly tries to beat death and prolong the life of the woman he loves. A story so grand, one medium couldn't contain it, Aronofsky's feature film version of The Fountain will be released by Warner Bros. Pictures and Regency Enterprises, starring Tony-award winning actor Hugh Jackman (X-Men, Van Helsing, The Boy from Oz) and acclaimed actress Rachel Weisz (Constantine, The Mummy, the upcoming The Constant Gardener). But before he did, the filmmaker wanted The Fountain to be realized in the unique storytelling power and artistic beauty of the graphic novel. Together, Aronofsky and Williams deliver what might be considered the ultimate director's cut. This volume also features an afterword by Aronofsky.
So this makes me wonder: is this transmedia storytelling, adaptation, or something between the two? Further, and perhaps more interesting, which edition is the primary narrative component? If one assumes that the primary media component of any property is its original intended product (the films in Star Wars, for example; all the 'extended universe' books would be classified as secondary media components), but the comic is based on Arnofsky's original, uncompromised story and the actual film is an amended version, then we start getting into battles of intent, of import (is the story more important than the director's celluloid composition?) and all kinds of other sticky wickets. Fascinating stuff.
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