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|Aeon Flux - The Complete Animated Collection|
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· 93 minutes
Directed by Karyn Kusama
Written by Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi, Peter Chung
· Charlize Theron
· Marton Csokas
· Jonny Lee Miller
· Sophie Okonedo
· Frances McDormand
Aeon Flux was born on MTV's short lived but groundbreaking animation showcase Liquid Television. The short cartoons were brilliantly weird and entirely wordless. Our heroine was an anarchist in dominatrix gear making trouble wherever she went and losing her life at the end of every adventure. When Aeon Flux was given her own half hour show on the network the bizarre action extended to wildly esoteric, nonsensical dialogue, and kinky sexuality, all of which combined to make Aeon a cult legend.
The character seemed long dead when Hollywood finally came calling with a full length live-action film. Charlize Theron as the lead and hot indie director Karyn Kusama (Girlfight) both seemed like interesting choices. However, the most important thing was the script, which went ahead without Peter Chung the creator of the series. Without Chung's guiding influence, the film adaptation of Aeon Flux morphed into yet another sci-fi action adventure retread.
The year is 2415. Most of the world's population has been wiped out by some mysterious virus. There is now only one city left in the world where the last 5 million people on Earth reside. One man, Trevor Goodchild (Martin Csokas), has found the cure to the virus and has become a leader. With his brother, Oren (Johnny Lee Miller), Trevor has crafted a perfect society called Bregna.
Underneath the surface of this new perfection, a group of mercenaries, called Monicans, has sprung up to expose the lies hiding behind the veil of the Goodchild society. People have been disappearing randomly throughout Bregna and somehow the government is behind it. One of those missing is the sister of a Monican asassin named Aeon Flux (Theron).
Sexy and deadly Aeon is tasked with killing Goodchild, which it is thought will bring down the government and expose what happened to the missing citizens. However, when Aeon finally gets her chance to complete her mission, a flash of memory that links Aeon and Trevor prevents her from finishing the job and opens up another secret that threatens to blow the lid off of Bregna.
In looking at Aeon Flux and seperating it from the television series, there are some appealing moments and solid sci-fi work. Director Kusama, with the help of cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh and production designer Andrew McAlpine, occasionally capture some terrific sci-fi landscapes. A scene where Aeon and a cohort scale the courtyard in front of a government building is an excellent action sequence and a visually imaginitive sci-fi creation.
Praise also goes to costume designer Beatrix Aruna Pazstor who creates a sleek and sexy future wardrobe for Theron. While I would have loved to see what Pazstor might have done with some of Chung's designs from the series, she does a terrific job in creating some beautifully sexy and functional gear to adorn Theron, which I realize is not the most difficult job, but still well done.
Unfortunately the script and plotting of Aeon Flux fails the fine technical work. Writers Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi, ostensibly working from the framework of an episode of the TV show, craft an entirely unoriginal sci-fi story about cloning, the environment, and government corruption. Typical targets of a typical sci-fi movie, and typical is something that Aeon Flux should never be.
The brilliance of the series was to take on familiar sci-fi tropes and turn them on their ear with oddity, sexuality, and imagination. The film adaptation lacks all three. Even odder, however, is Kusama's decision to keep one minor detail of the television series: flat, monotone line deliveries. The series, one asumes, employed a flat, almost lazy approach to dialogue because it was never about what was being talked about. The movie is about something, the characters have a point to make and a goal to achieve, and when they approach their dialogue in this flat way they simply seem bored.
Watching Aeon Flux as a fan of the original series is like having teeth pulled without anesthesia. Gone are all of the elements that made Aeon Flux exciting. Gone is the wildly eclectic dialogue, the mixed sexuality, and the obtuse plotting. Granted those are elements that are anathema to most mainstream audiences but the reason to make Aeon Flux into a feature film was because of these elements. Taking away what made Aeon Aeon leaves one to wonder why make the film at all. Why not develop an original sci-fi character for Theron to play and leave Aeon Flux, and more importantly her small but loyal fanbase, alone?
Aside from the occasionally attractive visuals the one reason to see Aeon Flux is Theron. Getting her post-Oscar curse out of the way, like Adrien Brody (The Village) and Halle Berry (Catwoman) before her, Theron hopefully can put this behind her and get back to more interesting work, like her other 2005 effort, North Country.
Theron has had a most unique career. A pariah before her transformative Oscar-winning role in Monster, she suffered through far worse films than Aeon Flux. Garbage like Devil's Advocate, Sweet November and The Astronaut's Wife were a trial by fire for Theron, who responded well by making all of those films a distant memory in Monster. Aeon Flux should merely be another minor bump in the road for this terrific actress.
Movies like Aeon Flux are why people hate movie studios and the people who operate them. We know why Paramount made Aeon Flux, because it was easy to market through its subsidiary, MTV, which also happened to own the rights to the character. It's the laziest form of dealmaking and filmmaking. For the artistry and hard work that went into crafting it, Aeon Flux is just that much more of a disaster for the gutlessness that went into stripping the character of what made her unique.
Creator Peter Chung is still hoping to make a direct-to-video Aeon Flux animated film. After the anihilation of his work in the live-action arena, Paramount owes one to Chung and to the real fans of the real Aeon Flux.