The Fountain was an epic, beautiful movie. It is definitely a "thinking" movie. I feel that I have yet to see the full thing, since it's known that 30 minutes was cut before its release. Darren Aronofsky released a graphic novel that makes up for the film on the cutting room floor.
The effects are seriously stunning, and come to find not full-on CGI. The entire future setting, with Tom in his bubble-esque space environment is breath taking (esp. the final sequence). If you simply sit back, the visuals can immerse you in another world. And this is what cinema really should do. It should show you another world, one so fantastic and engaging that you forget all the hype and other movie business bullshit. This film succeeded in this sense.
The story, on the other hand, is very hard to follow. It's about the fluidity of time, so he uses stylistic editing to create this world. The opening sequence lays the foundation for this style by fusing together the three main time periods. There is Tomas (Hugh Jackman), the Spanish conquistador, sent on a journey for the Tree of Life, by his Queen (Rachel Weisz). Then, there's Tommy and Izzie in present day with their whole "she has a brain tumor thing". Tommy is a brilliant, driven scientist, who is experimenting new drugs on apes to secretly find a cure for his dying wife. Izzie is writing a book about the Spanish conquistador called The Fountain. Then, there's the futuristic period with Tom (bald Hugh Jackman) and his Tree of Life in space. This Tom is meditating to find the final answer.
The film roots itself in the present day, while using her book to reveal more about the conquistador's story. All the plot is really about these three Toms who are striving for something: a tree of life, a cure, an answer. And they get so close to getting what they want, and yet they still fail on some level. Even if they do win something or answer something. They will still lose something in the end. I believe Aronofsky is meditating on the fragility of human existence and how it's futile to resist or work against death. In the end, he seems do be saying that death is the answer. Because that when you can truly be free. He uses Weisz to symbolize death, since she is doomed to die in this film. She is the martyr that should inspire and educate Tom's actions.
And this is why science-fiction films are so interesting to me. You can simply do anything, as long as you do it well that is. And he does...mostly. I just feel he was racing against the clock when editing this film.
But as Dan from Pajiba points out, that it really doesn't matter. It's about atmosphere with Aronofsky films. It's not about what happens, plot wise, but what the characters experience. In Requiem for a Dream, it was a tale about addiction. And yeah, some real fucked up shit happened. That was all device to show you what it means to be a junkie. It really hits you viscerally. And it's the same with The Fountain. Except now, it's a different aim, a romantic tale of love and obsession. He still moves the viewer, and in the end, that's all I really want.
If you have the time, you should really check this movie out. Especially if you love Kubrick, sci-fi, or Hugh Jackman.