Aeon Flux (2005) / Action-Sci Fi
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence and sexuality
Running Time: 93 min.
Cast: Charlize Theron, Martin Csokas, Jonny Lee Miller, Sophie Okonedo, Frances McDormand, Pete Postlethwaite, Amelia Warner
Director: Karyn Kusama
Screenplay: Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi (based on the animated television series by Peter Chung)
Review published December 12, 2005
Needlessly dull, Aeon Flux is a film that diffuses any claim to entertainment value by trying to have things both ways as an action/sci-fi flick. Those seeking action have to sit through a convoluted plot and lots of muddled talking head action, while those looking for a cerebral futuristic concept will find things just as skimpy on that end in order to accommodate the lengthy stunt and special effects pieces. If not for Theron's (The Italian Job, Reindeer Games) involvement and the occasional special effect, Aeon Flux looks and feels like a cheap, made-for-TV production, especially when you notice the meager running time. Perhaps on the small screen this would have been better off, as it would have avoided the scrutiny that big budget releases generally get. Nevertheless, the powers that be decided not to screen this film to critics; perhaps they knew the reaction they'd get.
The action takes place a little over 400 years from now, after the Earth's human population has all but been wiped out due to a deadly virus, leaving only one sole city remaining, Bregna, a sort of isolated utopia enclosed by walls to keep the bad elements out as well as the good in, or so they like to tell everyone. The genius behind the city's conception is Trevor Goodchild (Csokas, Kingdom of Heaven), although he isn't completely popular among all the people, as citizens appear to be snuffed out whenever they look like they're going to revolt. This leads to the emergence of a secret underground society of warriors called Monicans, and one of the most deadly among them is Aeon Flux. Aeon gets a mission to exact revenge on Goodchild when her precious sister, Una (Warner, Love's Brother), is snuffed out. However, complications arise when Aeon begins to have a strange feeling she is connected to Goodchild in some way, and he might hold the key to who, or what, she truly is.
Of course, MTV fans of the mid-1990s will recognize that Aeon Flux is an adaptation of the cult animated series that would regularly appear on that channel, and while it did enjoy a somewhat fervent following, I'd wager that most viewers watching the film will do so without even a passing familiarity to the original series. I'm guessing that a little general knowledge will probably help, as the story barely holds itself together, and its unique world looks like it holds more of interest than this film ever really explores. Although it may not be fair to compare, many viewers will still have a feeling of deja vu with an early 2005 release, The Island, for reasons that would probably be considered spoilers were I to reveal them.
As intriguing conceptually as Aeon Flux is, it still falls short by generating little interest in what's going on ,especially since the characters are sketchily drawn without any substance or genuine feeling. It is an aesthetic, sterile world full of lifeless people that seem merely to exist waiting for Aeon to visit. It's no surprise the citizens of Bregna would want desperately to leave it, since there looks like there isn't anything to do there of interest, save to get into the occasional squabble with the authorities.
Aeon Flux fits into an increasingly upstart mode of films with kick-ass female protagonists, a la Tomb Raider, Elektra, Catwoman, and Underworld, where the general vibe is to make the heroine look as sexy and stylish as possible. She isn't a person any more than any prop on the set, completely existing as a fantasy for which we draw our eyes in admiration, lust and in some cases, jealousy. It's an idealized world, where looking good means a lot more than being real, and the trade-off is that the video games that are based on them look sleek and chic, but we won't care any more about these characters as we would their Xbox counterparts should they perish. With little in the way of anything fresh or provocative, Aeon Flux is the perfect antidote for sleep deprivation, lowering pulse rates and drawing out restless yawns by most unfortunate enough to try to muddle through this underdeveloped production.
©2005 Vince Leo