The Road (John Hillcoat, 2009)

Narrative structure, information elements, fictional world and strategies of immersive development.

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Credits

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Synthesis

0. Index

1. Introduction

1.1. The realism of dystopia

“It’s a journey. It’s a kind of parable. I think it’s also a morality tale, but primarily, for me, it’s a love story between a father and a son.”[4]

“We have to watch out for the bad guys. We have to just keep carrying the fire. What fire? The fire inside you. […] Because we’re the good guys.”[10]

2. Analysis

2.1. Visual translation

2.2. Narrative Structure

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2.3. Summary of information elements

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2.4. Dialogue transcription

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3. Information and representation

3.1. The communicative potential

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3.2. The dystopian world

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3.3. Travel

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Travel
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The underground shelter
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3.4. Human degeneration and cannibalism

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Cannibals in transit (on the road)
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Cannibals of the house
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The cellar hatch — Men and women are imprisoned and maimed by cannibal owners to obtain food supplies. A desperate attempt to revolt by the prisoners distracts the bandits and allows the father and son to flee the house by hiding outside, waiting for the night before getting back on the road.
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The cannibals of the woods chasing a woman and a child.
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3.5. The moral sense of humanity

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The old man (Ely).
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The thief
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The ambush of the refugees armed with a bow.
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3.6. A tragic past

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a) The time of serenity + b) The night of the catastrophe
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a) The classical music concert + b) The time of serenity + c) The piano + d) The sweet awakening
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a) The decline + b) The birth of the child (childbirth)
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The history of bullets
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a) The destruction of the piano + b) The suicide of the wife (farewell)
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3.7. The death of the father

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The death of the father
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3.8. The open ending

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a) The man on the beach (veteran) + b) The new family

4. The transmedia potential

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“A work needs to combine radical intertextuality and multimodality for the purposes of additive comprehension to be a transmedia story.”[49]

4.2. Strategic comparison

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Note: where inserted, the asterisk (*) is used in a single column to avoid repetition of a common information element.
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4.3. Additional or alternative sequences of the novel

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Note: the number of items reported is not to be considered definitive, but the result of an arbitrary selection.
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4.4. Deleted scenes (from the film)

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Note: the scenes shown are visible in the special contents included with the film product.

4.5. Quotes

4.6 Visual structure

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5. Conclusions

“A good “world” can sustain multiple characters (and their stories) and thus successfully launch a transmedia franchise.”[51]

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Book of Eli, Brink, The Last of Us, Tom Clancy’s The Division.
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Blade Runner, Waterworld, Snowpiercer, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
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The Postman, Reign of Fire, I Am Legend, Fallout 4
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12 Monkeys, V for Vendetta, Children of Men, Metro 2033
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A Boy and His Dog, Rage, Mad Max: Fury Road, Horizon Zero Dawn
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Escape From New York, Cloverfield, Oblivion, Automata

5.2. Hypotheses and perspectives

5.3. Project and market

“A story might be introduced in a film, expanded through television, novels, and comics, and its world might be explored and experienced through game play […] picking up new consumers.”[73]

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Immersive meta-novel — Designed by director J.J. Abrams with the writer Doug Dorst, S. Ship of Theseus (Melcher Media, 2013) offers an extremely sophisticated editorial configuration. Written by an imaginary author named V. M. Straka, the book presents two distinct narratives between the main text and the posthumous annotations reported by two university students. Prints, postcards, maps, photographs, documents, telegrams and newspaper clippings guide the reader in an intense investigation to discover past and present mysteries. https://vimeo.com/81716329
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Rediscovered Diary — Written by Alex Irvine, New York Collapse (Chronicle Books/Melcher Media, 2016) plays
a survival manual that belonged to a young April Kelleher, survivor of a fatal pandemic that originated in NY. Through notes, underlines, comments, ambiguous clues, theories, illustrations and extractable artifacts (notice for vaccination, public transport card, map of Manhattan etc.) the reader relives April’s past and discoveries, decoding the secrets connected to the video game by The Division (Ubisoft, 2016). https://youtu.be/7SwLMVhmO3Y
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Independent Heirs — Conceived in pre-existing universes, Fantastic Beasts (D. Yates, 2016) and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (G. Edwards, 2016), however, describe autonomous stories, foreseen in serial chapters and accessible without binding previous knowledge.
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The values ​​represented in the graphs are to be considered totally random and exemplary. In a possible dedicated analytical study, an adequate system of numerical ratios will have to be defined, sometimes variable according to the type of parameter to be quantified (scale, figure, percentage, km2, cubic meter).
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The promotional site WhoIsMrRobot, dedicated to the television series Mr. Robot (S. Esmail, 2015–2019), reproduces the computer terminal with Linux operating system used by the protagonist Elliot Alderson, a young engineer and computer pirate suffering from mental disorders. To interact, the user can type specific commands in an active window, open the folders in the background displaying scans of documents, photographs, technical instructions, or start a video game programmed by fsociety, the anarchist collective founded by Elliot.
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Cineludic hybrids — The production of the third-person sci-fi video game Quantum Break (Remedy, 2016) included the participation of important actors (Shawn Ashmore, Aidan Gillen, Dominic Monaghan, Lance Reddick and others), digitally scanned during their real stage performances. The virtual experience then includes an exclusive television series directly interconnected with the videogame story: the game sessions and the user’s choices interact with 4 short transition episodes, designed to complete the story by revealing new information elements.
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Action and exploration — Stories of explorations, dystopias, investigations, conflicts, salvation and survival combine heroes and heroines in numerous video game adventures, offering engaging narratives and extraordinary technical results. Cinematic adaptations inspired by the worlds of Uncharted, Tomb Raider, The Last of Us and The Division are currently in development.
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Virtual chills — Reproducing an adrenaline chase scene visible in Goosebumps (R. Letterman, 2015), the user sits in the car with the protagonist R. L. Stine (Jack Black) trying to escape desperately from a gigantic praying mantis appeared in the city. Studied in collaboration with the director and the MPC studio, the scene [1:40] was released in a special application for mobile devices and made available in selected cinemas during the projection period.
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Brutal Shootouts — Squad 360 (3:49) reinterprets a scene from Suicide Squad (D. Ayer, 2016) in virtual reality, transporting the user to an office, at the center of a violent gunfight between the team of criminal protagonists and a group of enemies. The extreme viewing angle allows a total exploration of the scene, following the evolution of an encirclement maneuver between tracer bullets and killings. The sequence is reproduced in two views: the first as a free spectator, and in conclusion, with the subjective point of view of Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) armed with gun and club.
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Love memories — Written and directed by Sam Esmail as a promotional short film integrated with the TV series Mr. Robot (S. Esmail, 2015-), the virtual reality project proposes an exclusive short story (13:04) dedicated to an appointment between Elliot, the protagonist, and Shayla, the affectionate neighbor. The user, seen by Elliot as an imaginary friend, can thus visit the apartment, walk on the seafront, sit on the Coney Island Ferris wheel and learn more about the emotional profile of the protagonists, then awakening in the room together with Elliot, in a present of memories and loneliness.

“So stories and games are intimately connected because they’re two sides of the same impulse. Stories give rise to play, and play gives rise to stories”. [117]

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Analog Conversion — Board games inspired by the game worlds of Gears of War (2011), Batman Arkham City (2013), Bioshock Infinite (2013), Portal (2015), Bloodborne (2016) and Doom (2016) underline the importance of media adaptation processes, especially when applied to intellectual properties originally conceived as digital interactive products.

5.4. Immersion technical tests

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Criminal families — Dedicated to the film story of Lawless (J. Hillcoat, 2012), the official website extends the criminal environment and the violent conduct of the Bondurant brothers, alcohol traffickers during Prohibition, in the interactive field. In addition to promotional videos, information notes and biographical profiles (characters, actors, director, collaborators), the user can relive two film scenes by undertaking a virtual street shooting against armed rivals, or face a brutal bare-handed fight in the Bondurant club finally sharing the scores online.
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The law of the street — Sound effects, visual disturbances and animated images make up, recalling a frenetic and brutal urban atmosphere, the OutMonsterTheMonster site, created for Triple 9 (J. Hillcoat, 2016). The 12 pages present (1 for the promo, 11 for subjects and themes) introduce the individual personalities of the characters and the preliminary information of the story by combining texts, photo galleries, differentiated music, vocal inserts, citations and hypertext references (#).
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Conspiracies and mutants — Integrated with the story of X-Men: Days of Future Past (B. Singer, 2014), the Bent Uchronic interactive experience The Bent Bullet reconstructs the assassination of JFK attributing responsibility to Erik Lehnsherr, called Magneto, mutant capable of controlling metals. The site, through a documentary path of archival materials, articles, films and government photographs, reveals the historical background of the violent social conflict between humans and mutants after the tragic events of November 22, 1963. https:/goo.gl/H3uPi1
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Monstrous Secrets — Promotional intervention dedicated to Godzilla (G. Edwards, 2014), the Conspiracy Timeline website reconsiders the existence of the legendary monster by presenting an interactive chronological investigation path in a timeline with events, testimonies, revelations and archival material emerged between 1850 and 2013. A further and more complex domain (now inactive) then allows access, by typing specific commands, to a secret computer archive to deepen history, monster and fictional world.
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Political Regimes — The famous transmedia campaign developed for the filmic quadrilogy of The Hunger Games (2012–15) includes amazing interactive experiences distributed across multiple domains (institutions, districts, government portals), collective contests, a likely virtual guided tour of Capitol City and collaborative challenges. The Panem TV Youtube channel and the Capitol Couture fashion site, combined with many other project interventions (interviews with producers, virtual citizenship of Panem etc.) offer spectacular highly immersive entertainment, making the dystopia described in Suzanne Collins’ three original novels almost real.
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Space projects — An emblematic model of transmedia communication, the promotional campaign of Prometheus (R. Scott, 2012) marked unprecedented design goals. Inaugurated with an episode of TED set in 2023 led by the fake entrepreneur Peter Weyland, it continued on the corporate domain of Weyland Industries (financing company of the Prometheus Project), expanding the knowledge of the fictional world. Other interventions include an interactive exam for astronauts, archaeological finds, an exploratory video game, mathematical puzzles, fake job recruiting on Linked-In, advertising videos, and still unsolved narrative mysteries. See
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Animal societies — The promotional site of Dawn of The Planet of The Apes (M. Reeves, 2014) provides a short aptitude test based on the psychological profiles shared between humans and monkeys. Complete three practical tests, the user is identified with the profile of an animal character. Other interventions, created for the previous chapter Rise of the Planet of the Apes (R. Wyatt, 2011), include a likely government domain with medical information on the pandemic caused by primates, and fake archive footage to document previous cognitive changes anomalous found in some monkey specimens. https:/goo.gl/UOOw5g
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Viral simulations — Exploring the time interval preceding and interconnected to the videogame story of Tom Clancy’s: The Division (Ubisoft, 2016), the Collapse site operates as a realistic crisis simulator by calculating the risks of civil emergency in the event of a global pandemic using satellite data and real mathematical models. By impersonating the patient zero infected with a deadly virus, the user takes an interactive narrative path by deciding what actions to take to react to the symptoms (staying at home, going to the pharmacy or hospital, etc.) with the side effect of consciously promoting the contagion of millions of people and cause disastrous effects.
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Almost Existing Nations — Conceived as an introductory study path to the film world of The Grand Budapest Hotel (W. Anderson, 2014), the Akademie Zubrowka website offers a realistic educational seminar to learn about the social, economic and political aspects of Zubrowka, the imaginary republic created by the director. The course, divided into three main sections (tourism economics, artistic disciplines, geopolitics), hosts original texts (including a culinary recipe), diagrams, photographs, scenic artifacts and interactive biographical sections of the characters with cinematographic extracts.
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Definitive treatments — The promotional website of A Cure For Wellness [G. Verbinski, 2017) includes three therapeutic paths of sound meditation simulating a mental comfort session with a health care worker. Dialogues dedicated to natural elements (water, earth, air) and five animated images accompanied by sound backgrounds allude to a purifying cure offered by a mysterious Swiss institute, a key place in the film story. In addition to domination, a series of viral videos denigrate the contemporary world, considered materialistic and consumeristic, advising resolutive care.
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Bioethical questionnaires — Part of a series of interventions designed to promote the biotechnological themed video dystopia of Call of Duty: Black Ops III (Treyarch, 2015), the interactive questionnaire What Would You Do Proposes a probable political survey on science fiction themes within the game world: 13 questions with limited response time (10 seconds available) evaluate the participant’s ideological profile (anti-changes/ neutral/in favour) in relation to the decisive relationship between ethics and technological progress, finally developing personalized diagrams that can be shared on the Net. See a complete analysis. See the complete analysis.
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Night chronicle — The promotional site of Nightcrawler (D. Gilroy, 2014) transports the user to Los Angeles through the experience of Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), the controversial night owl protagonist who obsessively resumes accidents and tragedies to resell them to local television broadcasters . The domain simulates a typical Louis work night, always waiting for macabre events: using the cursor as a multifunction pointer, the user intercepts radio communications, calculates the road route, films the event and uploads the material for the broadcaster, gradually discovering exclusive film scenes.

“We now live in a moment where every story, image, brand, relationship plays itself out across the maximum number of media platforms. […] The result has been the push towards franchise-building in general and transmedia entertainment in particular.” [124]

“This new mode of storytelling is transforming not just entertainment (the stories that are offered to us for enjoyment) but also advertising (the stories marketers tell us about their products) and autobiography (the stories we tell about ourselves.”[127]

Notes list

Written by

I’m a creative research unit specialized in immersive entertainment and transmedia storytelling with focus on cinema, tv series, and videogames | humenhoid.com

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