(This is a review that I wrote back when the movie was first released in December of ’05)
Aeon Flux is a bit of a conundrum to review as far as a movie goes. It is a big screen adaptation of an all flash over substance cartoon in which a scantily clad female assassin jumped through body contorting physical stunts in the pursuit of her quarry only to die at the end of each episode. And, oh yeah, each installment only lasted 2 minutes. And it was made for MTV – Music Television. You know, the place where intellectual depth is prized above all else, unless, of course there is the option of shaking your booty or there is a spring break fashion show or pretty much anything else sparkly that would catch the eye of an average attention deficit 15 year old.
And did I mention she was scantily clad. Really scantily clad. I mean “electrical tape” scantily clad.
The movie seems to have nothing to do with the cartoon – except in the action scenes which are vaguely reminiscent of the series, but within the context of the movie seem to have no real connection to the overall plot, which again doesn’t have anything to do with the cartoon. And on top of that there is this whole secret underground resistance that fits poorly into the overall arc. Do you see what I am getting at here? How do you review a movie that has a modicum of merit hidden somewhere down deep inside, when everything else is an unholy mess. In effect, there are really three different competing aesthetic agendas inside of Aeon Flux, and only one of them has any real level of merit.
There is the action movie aesthetic that tries to pay tribute to the production design of the original source material, but in the original source material the main character was scantily clad in electrical tape and in this she is wrapped in lycra, missing only the 80’s head band and the legwarmers.
There is the secret resistance movement aesthetic that is filled with weird body modifications for enhanced abilities, bio-genetic communication methods, drug encrypted message delivery and etc, which, again, owes a slight a debt to the series but is basically only window dressing here.
And finally, there is the SciFi aesthetic, or rather in this case "the plot", which is actually fairly engaging as far as SciFi plots in main stream Hollywood releases go and did not exist in the series at all.
Charlize Theron is Aeon Flux, but not in the way in which we say that Sean Connery is James Bond or Kate Beckinsale is beauty incarnate or Tom Cruise is the Devil. It is just her name and apparently it has no deeper meaning within the structure of the film than if we were just saying in passing that she comes from the Hampshire Fluxes in upstate New York or, you know, that she is from that nice Flux family that lives down the street that has all the daughters. Aeon, as she is known to everyone, is an elite assassin for the local resistance movement. She is the best assassin in the utopian, martial law society in which she lives. How she was able to train and stay underground for so long in a society that monitors everyone’s every move is never explained.
She, of course, is the natural choice to infiltrate the high security parkland (a lot of dangerous gourds and blood thirsty putting greens without any video cameras or loud alarms to alert guards when intruders are detected) that surrounds the main headquarters of the government and assassinate its leader, Trevor Goodchilde (Marton Csokas). But as she embarks upon her mission, she quickly realizes that everything isn’t exactly as it seems and she undertakes the task of trying to unravel the mystery.
And here is the surprise, the mystery is pretty cool, all things considered.
I find it an ongoing shame when filmmakers set out to remake a property, but their hearts aren’t really impacted by the original, so they take the basic concept and lay over it a story or idea in which they are more invested. Like here, the heart of the story is strong and is pure potential, but it has nothing to do with the original animated series. There are extended nods to the original, but they feel out of place in relation to the narrative and come across more as filler than actually organically coming from the story itself.
It is a real shame.
It could have been pretty decent.
Especially with an actress like Charlize Theron (probably the most perfect woman to ever live over seven feet tall), who has shown a certain amount of skill when it comes to acting.
But it wasn’t.
The filmmakers have, in effect, by poorly combining two projects, ruined two potentially good movies, the out of control, funky Aeon Flux big screen adaptation, and the real speculative fiction movie with a solid, intelligent and challenging core theme.
And what did we get, as viewers, in return?
A movie in which: the stunts were stiff, Aeon dressed like she was channeling Pat Benatar circa 1987 instead of dressing like a contortionist/acrobat from a male fantasy version of Cirque Du Soleil, an underground resistance movement that was pretty much complete non-sense with no explanation to what they were actually resisting other than they had to fight the establishment regardless of the establishment, a whole bunch of killer vegetables and ruffage that is never really explained, a woman who has had her feet replaced with hands to make herself a more deadly assassin, and the kernel of a great idea looking for a way out of the middle of it all.